23 May 2008

Game Over? Do the Math

Why isn't the Democratic nomination race over? While the pundits around the country are coming up with various explanations and speculations, no one seems capable of breaking out a calculator. Because if they did, they'd know that this contest is so over.

How is it over? With only three primaries remaining -- in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota -- only 86 pledged delegates are left at stake. Assuming the worst-case scenario for Barack Obama (a blowout loss in PR and narrow wins in MT and SD), he'd earn 36 delegates with the remaining 50 going to Hillary Clinton.

If you do the math (with numbers provided by RealClearPolitics), you'd know that this race is over in many different ways -- and in every way:

1. Playing by the rules -- This would be the one that makes the most sense, but the one Clinton is fighting the hardest not to abide by. Under this scenario, Florida and Michigan don't count and the magic number is 2,026.

Barack Obama would have 2,001 delegates after the final primaries, leaving him 25 short of the majority required. He closes out the race if he gets just 25 of the uncommitted 209 super delegates to support him.

Result: Obama expected to clinch as of June 3.

2. Counting only pledged delegates -- Obama has favored using this as an argument to compel the super delegates to throw in their lot. To-date, he has 1,656 pledged delegates, already more than half of the 3,253 pledged delegates in play. If the super delegates are supposed to follow the lead of the pledged delegates, then this game is already over.

Result: Obama already clinched.

3. Counting only pledged delegates, including Florida and Michigan -- By adding the two renegade delegations, the pledged delegate pool expands to 3,570, meaning 1,785 would be needed to reach a majority.

The trickier part of this scenario is whether to allocate the "uncommitted" votes in Michigan to Obama, since he took his name off the ballot. If the "uncommitted" goes to Obama, then he'll have 1,826 pledged delegates, still a majority. If those "uncommitted" votes go to no one -- i.e. Obama gets zero delegates from Michigan -- then he'd fail to reach the majority. But he'd still have more pledged delegates then Clinton: 1,766-1,733, with neither reaching the majority because of the uncommitted votes.

Result: Obama wins as of June 3, whether he gets Michigan's pledged delegates or not.

4. Counting all delegates, including Florida and Michigan -- Hillary is fighting hard to reach this outcome, but the reality is she still has no chance to win. It merely puts more super delegates on the spot. By admitting all delegates from Florida and Michigan, the magic number goes up to 2,182.

If Obama is allowed to capture the "uncommitted" votes in Michigan, he'd have 2,135 delegates after the final primaries, leaving him 47 super delegates short of the majority. In contrast, Clinton's only goes up to 2,012, still needing 170 of the remaining 209 (81 percent) super delegates to support her. If Obama doesn't get Michigan's "uncommitted," he'd need more super delegates to put him over the top, but he'd still be ahead of Clinton, 2,075-2,012.

Result: Obama ahead in either scenario, needing either 47 or 102 super delegates for majority.

5. The popular vote -- This is Hilary's ace in the hole -- or so she thinks. When all else fails -- and they're destined to, as I have outlined -- this is the only thing she'll have going for her.

But even this specious piece of twisted logic doesn't necessarily work in her favor. Note her line: "More Americans have voted for me." What she conveniently left out is that since Obama's name wasn't on the Michigan ballot, he technically received no votes from Michigan. Even if Hillary wins a landslide in Puerto Rico, a territory that does not have a say in the general election, she'd still be trailing Obama in popular vote -- as long as Obama can claim the "uncommitted" votes in Michigan.

Result: Obama ahead if Michigan's "uncommitted" votes go to him. Clinton ahead if not.

As I had previously and presciently stated, it was stupid for Obama's people to bring the "popular vote" issue into the argument, and it's now biting them back something fierce. It was never part of the contest and now this becomes one last lifeline for Hillary's floundering campaign.

But no matter. Obama has a clear path to bring about the endgame well before the August convention. He should argue for seating Florida and Michigan's delegations, with the single caveat that Michigan's "uncommitted" delegates be allocated to him. Hillary will have virtually no rebuttal to this arrangement since she'd reap the benefits of the two contests she "won." And Obama merely has to persuade an additional two dozen or so super delegates (out of 209) to support him and make him the Democratic Party's nominee.

It all adds up. Really. Just do the math.

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