Hillary Clinton is good, I’ll give her that.
The story today is that she won big in Texas and Ohio. Which isn’t exactly true. It’s not even sort of true. She did have a pretty sizeable victory in Ohio, ten points, but barely won Texas, lost the caucus, and may end up with fewer delegates from the state than Obama. Not exactly a big win.
And in total, she barely dented Obama’s delegate lead.
Just a few weeks ago her leads in Ohio and Texas were so large she should have blown Obama out in both states, but that did not happen.
But she kept lowering standards. First they were going to win both states big, then they were just going to win both states, then they only had to win one state, and by the time Tuesday came around her campaign was saying if she won even one state it would be a sign that Democrat voters are getting “buyer’s remorse” about Obama.
So Obama significantly cuts into her lead in Ohio, almost wins in Texas, ends up with the same delegate lead that just yesterday people were saying was insurmountable, and somehow Clinton won and it’s a “new race.”
She really knows how to work the press, that’s for sure.
She has a right to feel as though she has a legitimate chance to win. I admitted two weeks ago that would be the case in this scenario, and I won’t take it back now. But Obama still has the upper hand, make no mistake about it. It’s not a “new race,” Obama just failed to finish the old one.
The truth is Clinton needed to make major inroads into Obama’s lead to have a real shot at wining the nomination, and that did not happen. So far she’s gained a whopping 15 delegates. That’s just not going to get the job done for her.
Obama is starting to remind me of a chess player who is racking up all his opponent’s pieces but can never seem to get a check-mate. Clinton keeps getting out of check, and Obama keeps putting her back into check, but he can never quite pull off the final move to end the game. Usually it’s just a matter of time. But sometimes the opponent is given enough time to start taking pieces herself, one by one, little by little, until finally there’s either a draw or they have a chance to pull off the upset. Clinton being Clinton, I’ll admit I’m concerned this may be the case now.
I think maybe Obama was a little too occupied with Texas and didn’t spend enough time courting the Ohio vote, thinking if he could win Texas then Ohio wouldn’t matter so much. He probably would have been better served giving up a few points in Texas and lessening the blow in Ohio, getting within ten points in both states, if was to lose them both anyway. The thing about meeting with Canada about NAFTA really hurt him in the end, too. This was an erred story which will fade away rather quickly, but there wasn’t enough time between the story and the primary for it to be insulated.
However, ultimately I still think Obama pulls this one off. The reason is math.
Here’s the interesting thing. Let’s say you take all the states Clinton has won, and all the states Obama has won, and assume that Clinton poaches the same proportion of delegates from states Obama won as he poaches delegates from her in states Clinton won. This would mean that you can add up all the delegates awarded to Clinton’s states and represent that as Clinton’s delegate count, and vice versa.
If you do that, according to the numbers on CNN.com, then you get a grand total of Clinton with 1536 delegates and Obama with 1362 delegates. However, currently Obama has 1321 and Clinton has 1186. This could be due to the fact that Clinton wins more bigger states, or it could mean either Obama is over-performing in states he loses (or Clinton is under-performing in states she wins), or a combination of both.
At any rate, it’s safe to say that Obama is getting more Clinton-state votes than Clinton is getting Obama-state votes.
But let’s say that, from here on out, the number of delegates “poached” is at a 1:1 ratio. This is giving Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt.
And let’s say that nobody takes the other’s states, and Clinton wins the ones which should be close. I think these states are Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky. It’s my opinion that Obama should win Kentucky and Clinton has a better chance of winning Indiana and West Virginia. But let’s give all of those to Clinton.
I’m going to give Guam and Puerto Rico to Obama because they are caucus states and Obama has done well in the “foreign” territories.
So Clinton should win Pennsylvania (the big prize with 188 delegates), Indiana (84), West Virginia (39) and Kentucky (60). Obama should win Wyoming (18), Mississippi (40), North Carolina (134), Oregon (65), Montana (24), South Dakota (23), Guam (9) and Puerto Rico (63). This is keeping with the status quo, both geographically and based upon state population (with the exception of North Carolina).
In this scenario, Clinton would win 376 more delegates and Obama would win 376 more delegates. This would be a tie, and Obama maintains his current lead in pledged delegates. Now things start getting a little hairy, though Obama still has some edge.
But let’s say that Obama wins Kentucky, because I think he will. This would move the total to 436 for Obama and 311 for Clinton. Obama’s lead will increase to over 200 pledged delegates and it’ll be very difficult for Clinton to win without a major uproar.
But let’s throw a real monkey wrench in there and say they win by the portion of “poached” delegates they currently maintain. This would give Obama 422 total delegates and Clinton 239, assuming Obama wins Kentucky. This would push his pledged delegate lead to over 300. Also, Obama would come just short of the necessary votes required to win, 2025, if you include the superdelegates who’ve already sponsored a candidate. Further, all these numbers are leaving out “unpledged” delegates in states which have already been decided (delegates stay “unpledged” due to complex rules governing how they’re divided by voting results, but it should be worked out by the convention and they will be bound to the voters). So it is possible, though unlikely, for Obama to actually clinch the nomination before the remaining superdelegates have a say.
There are 794 superdelegates, 238 of which have pledged for Clinton and 194 which have pledged for Obama. If Obama does win Kentucky and both candidates carry the same portion of delegates, then Obama would be winning by just under the total amount of unpledged superdelegates (362 superdelegates left and Obama’s lead would be somewhere between 275-300 delegates). Obama would only need about a fifth of the remaining superdelegates to come to his side to win. In other words, Clinton would have to more or less run the board with these to win, which is so incredibly unlikely I don’t even consider it unless something drastically changes.
And this is all giving Clinton the benefit of the doubt. If Obama can win all three “toss-up” states, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky, then he should have no problem winning. If he can steal Pennsylvania (which I honestly don’t think will happen) then he will have certainly check-mated Clinton.
At the very least he has much more room for error then her.
The only real threat to Obama is that Clinton does pick up enough momentum that she ends up winning many more delegates than she currently looks like she will win, and then runs the table with the superdelegates. However, I don’t think that will happen for two reasons. First, momentum doesn’t seem to have played much of a role so far. It didn’t help Obama after Iowa and February, and it didn’t help Clinton after New Hampshire and before Super Tuesday. Secondly, Obama has always, including last night, carved into the leads in states Clinton was predicted to win, and I predict this will continue. The remaining states are all more spread out, allowing Obama to spend more time and effort in each individual state. This should help him. Also, Clinton’s “kitchen sink” strategy may help in the short-term, but I think it will end up hurting her by the end of the campaign.
I don’t want to write Clinton off yet. That would be foolish. However, disappointed as I am in Obama’s failure to win the Texas popular vote and finish Clinton off, I think to say he still has the upper hand is actually somewhat of an understatement.