Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Final (We Hope) Clinton Math

Well, financial woes and defectors may cause her to change her mind, but for now Hillary Clinton- in two speeches given today at that mother-daughter fundraiser in West Virginia- has made it clear she does not intend to quit.

Furthermore, she's stated clearly today that the reason she's going on is that... it's not mathematically impossible for her to win.

Because, remember, we MUST count the votes from Florida and Michigan, as they were voted.

This argument, of course, both backs her into a corner and forces her to make the case that Florida and Michigan Democrats should not support the Democratic nominee if they aren't seated at the Denver convention according to their January primary votes. She can't accept any compromise now- such as the 69-59 split of Michigan pledged delegates floated by the Michigan state Democrats last week. In order for her to pretend that this race is still close enough for her to win, she has to have all... or nothing.

Here's the math as I see it, after making a couple of minor corrections in the state delegates:

NON-FL/MI PLEDGED DELEGATES - Obama 1,594, Clinton 1,424
NON-FL/MI SUPERDELEGATES - Obama 254, Clinton 270
TOTAL - Obama 1,848, Clinton 1,694

PLEDGED DELEGATES (FL) - Obama 67, Clinton 105
SUPERDELEGATES (FL) - Obama 4, Clinton 8

PLEDGED DELEGATES (MI) - Obama 0*, Clinton 73
SUPERDELEGATES (MI) - Obama 1, Clinton 7

TOTAL PLEDGED DELEGATES W/FL/MI- Obama 1,661, Clinton 1,602
TOTAL SUPERDELEGATES W/FL/MI- Obama 259, Clinton 285
GRAND TOTAL W/FL/MI - Obama 1,920, Clinton 1,887


* Obama wasn't on the ballot; "Uncommitted" won 55 delegates. Not all of these may go to Obama; indeed, rumors coming out of the Michigan state convention two weeks ago strongly suggest that as many as a third of those "Uncommitted" slots have been filled by stealth Hillary supporters.

OK- so the above is the absolute best math Clinton can hope for. By that math, she only has to make up 34 delegates to take the lead. By that math, there is a good chance that neither candidate will win the nomination even with the superdelegates- because of John Edwards' 32 pledged delegates and the 55 "Uncommitted" Michigan delegates.

By this math, there are 610 delegates- pledged and superdelegates combined- left to be assigned. By this math, Obama needs 48% of them; Clinton needs 53%. This, if true, would indeed be a practical tie- and it would also guarantee that superdelegates decide the victor, the same as without Florida and Michigan.

But the problem is: it's not true now, and it's not probable that it will remain true. Much is being made of a meeting of a Democratic rules committee at the end of this month, but the actual credentials committee won't meet until early August- and that's when the final decision on Florida and Michigan will be made. Before then, some compromise on Florida and Michigan may well happen- indeed, the Obama campaign, as the campaign of the presumptive nominee, will be pushing hard for such a compromise.

The top options for such a compromise are: for Michigan, the above 69-59 split favoring Clinton, with all superdelegates to count; and for Florida, a halving of the pledged delegates, with all superdelegates to count.

Punch those numbers into the mix, and instead of Obama having a 33 delegate lead with about 300 delegates to go for both candidates, you have Obama with a lead of over 100 delegates, with Obama needing only 221 delegates (and Clinton 336) to win.

So- in order to continue, Clinton needs to keep Florida and Michigan from making any compromise whatever, and then she has to get them seated... and that can pretty much only happen if she takes this to the convention.

Superdelegates do NOT want this race to go to the convention.

Now, one thing this shows is that the Obama camp was unwise in their strategy to quietly oppose the various specific plans for revotes in Michigan and Florida. Those two states are the Clintons' final remaining lifeline in this campaign. The sooner they can be settled, the better.

Now, of course, Obama will (or should) be eager to make a compromise, anything that gives him pledged delegates in Michigan and/or reduces the net gain Clinton has in either state. Hillary, on the other hand, will strongly resist anything less than total capitulation on the part of Howard Dean and the DNC, and the seating of the two states based on the January vote with no modification.

This is the last stand of the Clinton campaign. They can only maintain it as long as superdelegates don't defect to Obama in droves; so long as they have money to campaign; and so long as the fate of Florida and Michigan remains debatable. Knock out any one of those three, and the Clintons no longer have any argument to make to the Democratic Party.

How much longer? Hard to say. Two of the next three contests- Kentucky and West Virginia- are expected to be enormous Clinton landslides, of the 65-35 kind- which will lead to fundraising surges to supplement the Clinton millions. Many of the Clinton superdelegates cleave to her either from fear of their constituents (in districts that voted for Clinton) or from fear of retribution (the Clintons are well known for attacking and sabotaging Democrats who stand in their way, most recently John Kerry). Michigan and Florida remain jump balls, with neither side able to bring them down without the other bumping them back into play.

But, for the time being, the Clintons still need persuading that it's over. To them, it's victory or death- remember, I've posted before that the Democratic Party despises losers. If the Clintons lose this nomination fight, their time as a power in the party is over. Forget murmurs of Clinton as Majority Leader in the Senate: not only do her fellow Senators dislike her in the main, but if she loses here she also loses her image of skilled, strong leadership.

Obama's won the math; now he has to shut down Clinton's campaign, by taking her superdelegates, by settling Florida and Michigan, or by cutting off her finances.

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