Plenty of Time for Second Thoughts

Why Senator Clinton needs to stay in the race until the last delegate sings.

Monday, February 25, 2008

As of the today, Senator Obama has 1,374 delegates of which 181 are so called “Super Delegates.”  Senator Clinton has 1,275 delegates of which 241 are Super Delegates.  The allocation of Super Delegates varies somewhat from source to source, which is to say these people are still making up their minds.  A candidate needs 2,025 delegates to be nominated.

Further complicating the race for the nomination, Edwards has 26 pledged delegates.  Clinton won 50% of the Florida primary vote to Obama’s 33%, but Florida’s 210 delegates have been ruled ineligible to vote for their nominee due to a dispute over the scheduling of their primaries.  The same is true for Michigan’s 156 delegates.  Senator Clinton won 55% of that state’s primary votes, to 40% which were “Uncommitted.”  Senator Obama was not on the Michigan primary ballot.

There are 14 states and Puerto Rico which will be awarding a total of 977 delegates, through primaries and caucuses, between now and the convention.  Let’s be optimistic on Senator Obama’s behalf and assume that he wins two thirds of all the remaining delegates, including in larger states such as Texas (193 delegates), Ohio (141 delegates) and Pennsylvania (158 delegates) where the races will likely be much more even.  Two thirds of 977 is 651.  Add these 651 to the Senator’s 1,374, brings him to precisely the 2,025 he needs to win.  Allow a good number of the Super Delegates to migrate his way, and he’s home free with room to spare.

Suppose, on the other hand, the Senators basically split the vote in the three largest states where there are a total of 492 delegates at stake.  Let’s assume they win 246 each, and that Senator Obama gets two thirds (323) of the other 485 delegates to be elected.  Senator Clinton picks up the other 162.  These gains bring their delegate totals to 1,943 for Obama, and 1,683 for Clinton.

There are many other possible scenarios, but this one as reasonable as the next, so let’s stay with it.  Senator Obama is close, but no cigar, not yet, not unless there is mass migration of Super Delegates his way.  Why wouldn’t there be?  For that matter, why wouldn’t the Clinton campaign just cave, graciously of course, in the interest of party unity?  In fact, this might be exactly what happens, but then there is a reason why it might not – and why Senator Clinton should stay in the race.  Today’s February 25th.  The Democratic convention isn’t until August 25th, 6 months from now.

There are some of us who believe the Obama candidacy is mostly hype sparked by Senator Obama’s oratory, driven by a widespread exuberance for any alternative to the last 8 years of the Bush Administration in particular, and to the Washington establishment in general.  The problem is, so some of us believe, Senator Obama is inexperienced and naïve, that he will waste valuable time we can’t afford to lose learning how to relate to Congress, and could misstep badly given his lack of foreign affairs experience.  We’re also concerned that he can’t beat Senator McCain regardless of what some current polls are saying, 8 months in advance of the general election in November which, in Presidential politics, is a lifetime.

For those of us who watch and read way too much news, there’s clear evidence that the media (and perhaps some prospective voters and party professionals as well?) is beginning to turn, to reconsider its infatuation with Senator Obama in favor of a more studied, more realistic understanding of his programs and experience.  They are beginning to wonder what “The Rally People” will be the last to figure out on their own:  Can he beat McCain and, even if he does, will he make a good President.  Not that he wouldn’t eventually, maybe in 2017, but what about now?

Could be, if we get to the Democratic convention on August 25th without a done deal, the Super Delegates that were moving to Obama find themselves re-examining their party’s prospects – particularly if polls begin to show Senator Obama running even or, heaven forbid, behind Senator McCain who will have been campaigning against him for 6 months by then.  Elected Democratic delegates will vote for their designated candidate on the first ballot.  Two or three ballots later, who knows?  The convention may just decide that the primary votes which made sense during the initial hysteria of the Obama campaign months earlier will no longer assure them of a victory in the Fall, or a solid, dependable Presidency beginning in January.

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