Friday, March 07, 2008

The Clinton campaign is rejuvenated, the Obama campaign is on the ropes, and blah blah blah. But here's the thing: as I've said in the past, I really have a hard time picturing the superdelegates choosing to overrule the pledged delegates on this. My strong feeling is that whoever comes into the convention with a pledged-delegate lead is going to get the nomination. (Though clearly my strong feelings aren't worth a hill o' really, really cheap beans; and I should also note that the strength of this particular feeling lessens as the two candidates get closer and closer in pledged-delegate totals.)

At this point, there are a total of 747 outstanding pledged delegates. Current breakdowns vary by a few here or there, but they pretty much unanimously give Obama a pledged delegate lead of between 120 and 160; for the sake of the middle-ground, let's use the AP, which puts it at 1,360-1,220, Obama.

So it comes down to a basic word problem. We know that there are 747 delegates, and we know that in order to take the lead (or at least tie), Clinton would need to earn 140 more delegates than Obama does: so XC + (XO + 140) =747. 747 - 140 = 607, and 607/2 = 303.5. 303.5 + 140 = 443.5, and then you divide: 443.5 / 747 = 59.4%; 303.5 / 747 = 40.6%. In other words, Clinton has to win the remaining primaries by a margin of at least 59-41.

So the Clinton campaign is now hoping for one of three unlikely eventualities:
1. She wins 59-41 the rest of the way. Clinton winning every remaining state? That's hard to imagine. Clinton winning every remaining state by a cumulative score of 59-41? That's downright unfathomable.
2. Michigan and Florida are seated, and vote according to their current primary results. It's actually looking pretty likely that both states will be seated at the convention, but how they'll vote remains to be seen. The fairest way would be to force them to vote 50-50 (which I think should be called the "All-Time QB" option), second- or third-fairest would be to hold new elections, and then somewhere around eightieth- or eighty-first-fairest would be to allow them to vote according to the primaries they've already conducted.
3. The superdelegates override the pledged delegates and swing the race to Clinton. As I said, I don't think this'll happen no matter what. But if Obama heads into the convention with a 100-delegate lead, not only will it become politically difficult for Clinton supporters to gin up the support necessary for an override, it'll become quite logistically difficult, as well. There are only about 800 superdelegates, remember. Overcoming a 100-delegate margin would require Clinton to carry the superdelegates to the tune of 12 or 13 points. Right now, without any of the political pressure that'll come with the convention, she's only managing to hold a superdelegate lead of about 8 points. (And even that's weakened in recent weeks.)

Unless one of those three comes true, Hillary Clinton cannot win. And though, as I said, I am utterly incapable of making an accurate prediction about anything, you have to figure the odds on each of those are pretty long. If Clinton would agree to some sort of a d├ętente for the next six weeks -- some sort of "why can't we all just get along" campaign theme -- I'd have no objection to her sticking around and taking her chances. But if she's going to spend the next six weeks swinging hard, then my patience is pretty much up. She's damaging her future, she's damaging the party, and she may very well be damaging [menacing sound effect]... the world.

[Unrelatedly: Tom Daschle was rockin' the open-collared shirt on The Daily Show tonight. Doesn't sound like it'd be weird, but trust me: it was.]

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