08 February 2008

Democratic Brawl Continues

Tsunami Tuesday turned out about expected -- a dead-heat for the two Democratic contenders and emergence of a clear front-runner and presumptive nominee in John McCain for the Republicans.

With Mitt Romney dropping out of the race, it is all but settled for the GOP. McCain, who appeared in front of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) to make his case on his conservative credentials, should formally wrap up his party's nomination by no later than March 4. In any event, the Republican establishment has already circled the wagon for its man, something Republicans do best.

Not so much for the Democrats.

Tuesday's outcome left Barack Obama with 13 more delegates than Hillary Clinton, 878-865, not counting the super delegates, who may opt to de-commit if they wish. Counting the super delegates, Clinton has a 70-delegate lead, 1,076-1,006.

Of course, neither, by any count, is close to the 2,025 needed for nomination. And with only 22 states remaining, plus Puerto Rico and D.C., this will be a protracted fight, perhaps all the way to the Democratic Convention in Denver.

Obama had an opportunity to deliver a crushing blow -- if not the knockout punch -- with a win in California on Tuesday. Getting the biggest piece in the delegate pie would at least give him a decisive and symbolic victory over Clinton. But with Hillary holding together a women-Latino-Asian coalition, she escaped with a tie even though she won only eight of the 22 states contested that day.

The next 10 days present Obama with another opportunity to seize the momentum. Of the eight states, and D.C., that are holding caucuses and primaries, he should win at least seven. Maryland, Virginia, D.C., Louisiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Hawaii should all be friendly turf. He'll have to battle Clinton in Maine and Washington State.

This is how I see these nine contests unfold: Obama should win decisively in Maryland, D.C., Louisiana, Nebraska and Hawaii and narrowly in Virginia and Wisconsin. Hillary will eek out close victories in Maine and Washington.

As far as delegate counts, I project Obama to come away with 269, to Hillary's 242. This gives him a 40-delegate lead with 14 states left to compete.

But even a sweep of all nine contests by Obama will not force Clinton to quit, and there would be no reason to, anyway. The Democrats' fatally flawed proportional allocation of delegates, borne out of their own incessant yearning for unmitigated egalitarianism, all but forces the race to the convention floor.

And that means the nomination likely will be a brokered deal, with three parties holding all the cards: 1) The 796 super delegates, party luminaries and functionaries who are unanswerable to the electorate but own nearly 20 percent of the vote; 2) delegates from Michigan and 3) delegates from Florida, potentially may cast the tie-breaking votes even though their presence has been banned from the convention floor as punishment for moving up their primary dates against party rules.

If the process drags onto the convention floor, it would seem to favor Hillary. She has more clout with the party establishment, recent defections not withstanding. And she also "won" the primaries in Michigan and Florida, even though she was running unopposed in Michigan and reneged on a pledge not to campaign in Florida.

So like a boxing match, Obama's best chance to succeed rests with ending the match before it goes to the judges' cards. But upon examining the remaining races, that's improbable.

Even if he should sweep the remaining 12 states (highly unlikely, with Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania in the mix) by large margins, the best he could hope for is still about a 1,800-1,700 lead over Clinton, not enough to clinch the nomination. With that being the case, the 500 or so yet-to-commit super delegates -- if not the Floridians and Michiganders -- will cast the deciding votes at the convention.

That's democracy, Democratic-style. You gotta love it -- if you're a Republican.


Anonymous said...

"Super-Delegates" are anti-American. The Republicans had the same problem in West Virginia.

Goth said...

Let's not discount how Edwards delegates might have a role to play in how they swing.

Giddily interesting stuff in any case.