Morning Cheat Sheet
The Indeterminate Election
By Peter Baker
So Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton got her groove back by winning Texas last week, right? Yes. No. Who knows?
Now some nine days after Texas voted, it's still not really clear who won. Clinton did win the primary by a clear 51 percent to 47 percent margin and, fortunately for her, that set the tone because those results came out on Election Night. As her camp notes, it showed once again that she wins the big states.
But the second step of the Texas Two-Step remains incomplete. One third of the state's delegates were to be chosen by the caucuses that followed the primary the same night. About 1 million voters participated in those caucuses and Texas Democrats are still counting their votes. Actually, in some places they haven't even started counting. In Harris County, which includes Houston, party volunteers are still collecting packets from precincts, the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday.
As a result, it's quite likely Sen. Barack Obama will actually emerge from the process having won more delegates from Texas than Clinton, which, after all, is the way nominees are chosen. At the very least, it appears that Clinton's win in the popular vote was offset by the caucuses, making Texas effectively a wash for her in the all-important delegate race. The most recent still-incomplete count by the Associated Press had both Clinton and Obama winning 103 delegates from Texas, with 22 still unallocated. The Houston Chronicle yesterday had Obama ahead with 108 delegates to 107 for Clinton. If he holds his lead in the caucuses, he would pick up more of the still-unallocated delegates than she would. The same thing happened in January in Nevada, where Clinton won the most votes but Obama ultimately edged her in delegates.
In some ways, that does not matter that much. Politics is often more about emotion and perception than math. Clinton's victory in the Texas popular vote, along with her triumph in Ohio the same night, gave her a powerful political boost at a time when she had gone a month without any wins. It energized her campaign, reinvigorated her supporters, stopped the erosion of superdelegates and juiced fundraising. It let her keep going with an argument that she still has a plausible case for the nomination, particularly if she can win the Pennsylvania primary on April 22 and somehow either seat disqualified delegates from Florida and Michigan or secure revotes in those two states.
Yet the slow-moving Texas results also highlight the fact that, at bottom, Clinton has not moved the needle when it comes to the delegate race. She picked up a net of nine delegates in Ohio and five in Rhode Island, according to the Associated Press count, while losing a net of three in Vermont, two in Wyoming and five in Mississippi. So if Texas is a wash, that means that after six more states voting in the past 10 days, Clinton has picked up only a net four pledged delegates. By some accounts, she spent something like $18 million in the March 4 primaries. Even if she has not spent a dime since then, it means each additional delegate cost her $4.5 million.
Turning back to our favorite online delegate calculator on our sister site, Slate, Clinton would need to win 63 percent in all of the remaining 10 contests to catch Obama in pledged delegates, or those chosen by caucuses and primaries. There's some cause to doubt her ability to do that, given that she has won that much so far in just a single state, her onetime adopted home of Arkansas. The latest polls show her winning Pennsylvania with 52 percent and losing North Carolina on May 6. So the Clinton camp recognizes it cannot actually beat Obama in pledged delegates without Florida and Michigan, which is why those two states have become so important all over again. Obama cannot win the nomination with only pledged delegates, but his camp is operating on the assumption that if he has a lead among pledged delegates, the elected officials and party leaders who vote as superdelegates will ultimately go his way rather than effectively overrule the verdict of the voters.
So for now, all eyes turn to Florida and Michigan. It may be hard for Clinton's forces to seat their delegates from those January primaries given that voters were told beforehand that they would not count because the elections were being held too early under Democratic National Committee rules -- especially in Michigan's case, where Obama's name was not even on the ballot. But the party is reluctant to disenfranchise voters from two big, important states. And a revote may favor Clinton, particularly in Florida, potentially putting her back in the hunt in the delegate race. "There are two options -- honor the results or hold new primary elections," she told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce yesterday. "I don't see any other solutions."
What would happen if Florida and Michigan were counted? Right now, without them, a candidate needs 2,025 delegates to win the Democratic nomination. If Florida's 210 delegates and Michigan's 156 were included, then a candidate would need 2,208. At the moment, Obama leads Clinton with 1,602 delegates to her 1,497, including all superdelegates. If Clinton were to get Florida's disqualified delegates or to win a revote by the same margin, she would gain a net 38 delegates. Michigan is more complicated because Obama was not on the ballot, but for the sake of argument, let's assume he would be given all of the vote she did not win or that a revote would produce essentially the same result; then she would come out of Michigan with a net 16 additional delegates.
Still with us? That would mean Clinton would cut Obama's lead among pledged delegates from 142 as it stands now to 88 -- and among all delegates from 105 to 51. If she rolled up a big win in Pennsylvania and some of the other upcoming states, that would leave the race so close that Clinton's camp argues it would be an effective tie and that the hundreds of uncommitted superdelegates should then come to the conclusion that she would be the stronger nominee in the fall.
That's a lot of math -- and a lot of ifs -- but that's where things stand. Stay tuned. There's lots more to come. And maybe someday, Texas will finish counting its votes.
Posted at 12:13 PM ET on Mar 13, 2008
Morning Cheat Sheet
Share This: Technorati | Tag in Del.icio.us | Digg This
Previous: Obama on Race and the Race | Next: Off the Trail for a Day, Senate Life Resumes
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: linda_521 | March 15, 2008 9:15 AM
Posted by: JakeD | March 14, 2008 4:20 PM
Posted by: TomJx | March 14, 2008 4:10 PM
Posted by: JakeD | March 14, 2008 10:00 AM
Posted by: jemille144 | March 13, 2008 4:46 PM
Posted by: PulSamsara | March 13, 2008 3:43 PM
Posted by: eelstak | March 13, 2008 3:07 PM
Posted by: wesfromGA | March 13, 2008 3:04 PM
Posted by: ajtiger92 | March 13, 2008 2:57 PM
Posted by: jkallen001 | March 13, 2008 2:55 PM
Posted by: rat-the | March 13, 2008 2:55 PM
Posted by: SeedofChange | March 13, 2008 2:52 PM
Posted by: thebobbob | March 13, 2008 2:51 PM
Posted by: jwhite1202 | March 13, 2008 2:48 PM
Posted by: jm917 | March 13, 2008 2:48 PM
Posted by: jkallen001 | March 13, 2008 2:39 PM
Posted by: J_thinks | March 13, 2008 2:33 PM
Posted by: jkallen001 | March 13, 2008 2:33 PM
Posted by: rat-the | March 13, 2008 2:30 PM
Posted by: svreader | March 13, 2008 2:30 PM
Posted by: svreader | March 13, 2008 2:28 PM
Posted by: J_thinks | March 13, 2008 2:25 PM
Posted by: jencm | March 13, 2008 2:25 PM
Posted by: J_thinks | March 13, 2008 2:23 PM
Posted by: selfsycophant | March 13, 2008 2:22 PM
Posted by: jkallen001 | March 13, 2008 2:21 PM
Posted by: svreader | March 13, 2008 2:14 PM
Posted by: jkallen001 | March 13, 2008 2:03 PM
Posted by: jencm | March 13, 2008 2:03 PM
Posted by: jkallen001 | March 13, 2008 2:01 PM
Posted by: selfsycophant | March 13, 2008 1:57 PM
Posted by: JackSmith1 | March 13, 2008 1:56 PM
Posted by: ruppansy | March 13, 2008 1:48 PM
Posted by: jencm | March 13, 2008 1:47 PM
Posted by: CPCook | March 13, 2008 1:45 PM
Posted by: dmscontractor | March 13, 2008 1:40 PM
Posted by: davidmwe | March 13, 2008 1:37 PM
Posted by: mbshults | March 13, 2008 1:20 PM
Posted by: CorinneA | March 13, 2008 1:17 PM
Posted by: bsimon | March 13, 2008 1:09 PM
Posted by: zukermand | March 13, 2008 12:57 PM
Posted by: jencm | March 13, 2008 12:51 PM
Posted by: zukermand | March 13, 2008 12:50 PM
Posted by: zukermand | March 13, 2008 12:44 PM
Posted by: rust1d | March 13, 2008 12:38 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.