She will keep going even if she doesn't win both Ohio and Texas tonight. This analysis makes one wonder why...
[QUOTE]Hillary’s Math Problem
Forget tonight. She could win 16 straight and still lose.
By Jonathan Alter
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 11:23 AM ET Mar 4, 2008
Hillary Clinton may be poised for a big night tonight, with wins in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island. Clinton aides say this will be the beginning of her comeback against Barack Obama. There's only one problem with this analysis: they can't count.
I'm no good at math either, but with the help of Slate’s Delegate Calculator I've scoped out the rest of the primaries, and even if you assume huge Hillary wins from here on out, the numbers don't look good for Clinton. In order to show how deep a hole she's in, I've given her the benefit of the doubt every week for the rest of the primaries.
So here we go: Let's assume Hillary beats expectations and wins Ohio tonight 55-45, Rhode Island 55-45, Texas, 53-47 and (this is highly improbable), ties in Vermont, 50-50.
Then it's on to Wyoming on Saturday, where, let's say, the momentum of today helps her win 53-47. Next Tuesday in Mississippi—where African-Americans play a big role in the Democratic primary—she shocks the political world by winning 52-48.
Then on April 22, the big one, Pennsylvania—and it's a Hillary blowout, 60-40, with Clinton picking up a whopping 32 delegates. She wins both of Guam's two delegates on May 30, and Indiana's proximity to Illinois does Obama no good on May 6, with the Hoosiers going for Hillary 55-45. The same day brings another huge upset in a heavily African-American state: enough North Carolina blacks desert Obama to give the state to Hillary 52-48, netting her five more delegates.
Suppose May 13 in West Virginia is no kinder to Obama, and he loses by double digits, netting Clinton two delegates. The identical 55-45 result on May 20 in Kentucky nets her five more. The same day brings Oregon, a classic Obama state. Oops! He loses there 52-48. Hillary wins by 10 in Montana and South Dakota on June 3, and primary season ends on June 7 in Puerto Rico with another big Viva Clinton! Hillary pulls off a 60-40 landslide, giving her another 11 delegates. She has enjoyed a string of 16 victories in a row over three months.
So at the end of regulation, Hillary's the nominee, right? [B]Actually, this much-too-generous scenario (which doesn't even account for Texas's weird "pri-caucus" system, which favors Obama in delegate selection) still leaves the pledged-delegate score at 1,634 for Obama to 1,576 for Clinton. That's a 56-delegate lead. [/B]
Let's say the Democratic National Committee schedules do-overs in Florida and (heavily African-American) Michigan. Hillary wins big yet again. But the chances of her netting 56 delegates out of those two states would require two more huge margins. (Unfortunately the Slate calculator isn't helping me here.)
So no matter how you cut it, Obama will almost certainly end the primaries with a pledged-delegate lead, courtesy of all those landslides in February. Hillary would then have to convince the uncommitted superdelegates to reverse the will of the people. Even coming off a big Hillary winning streak, few if any superdelegates will be inclined to do so. For politicians to upend what the voters have decided might be a tad, well, suicidal.
For all of those who have been trashing me for saying this thing is over, please feel free to do your own math. Give Hillary 75 percent in Kentucky and Indiana. Give her a blowout in Oregon. You will still have a hard time getting her through the process with a pledged-delegate lead.
The Clintonites can spin to their heart's content about how Obama can't carry any large states besides Illinois. How he can't close the deal. How they've got the Big Mo now.
[QUOTE=nuu faaola;2410756]She will keep going even if she doesn't win both Ohio and Texas tonight. This analysis makes one wonder why...[/QUOTE]
I can understand her persistence since she was the assumed nominee just a few months ago, but she really needs to concede at this point. Her campaign is completely intolerable, and if she truly cared about the Democratic party, she would bow out gracefully and unite the party for the general election. Of course, this is Hillary we are talking about.
It's come to the point where if I see her on TV, I change the channel.
Sunday's Meet the Press featured a spirited debate between James Carville, Mary Matalin, Mike Murphy, and Bob Shrum. Shrum made a very insightful point, noting that Hillary Clinton has to find some kind of "moral claim" to the nomination if she hopes to take it from Barack Obama.
This is a concise version of an argument I made last week - that Clinton needs to assert that she is the "legitimate" candidate of her party. I particularly like the use of the word "claim" because it underscores how legitimacy is contestable. Both she and Obama will make claims to the nomination that the super delegates will arbitrate.
I talked briefly last week about the specific claim Clinton could make. Today, I want to outline it in more detail. Essentially, Clinton is going to assert that Obama's plurality victory among pledged delegates does not necessarily entitle him to the nomination. Counting up the pledged delegates is one way to measure popular support, but it is not the only one. I don't even think it is the best one - at least from the standpoint of persuading the super delegates.
The most persuasive method is to count the votes. This is why the Obama campaign needs to be careful. Clinton could acquire a powerful argument for her nomination. Obama currently has a slight lead in the popular vote (52% to 48%), excluding Florida and Michigan. However, if Clinton wins Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania - his lead will be under threat. This is also where Florida and Michigan come into play. I get the sense that few neutral Democratic politicos are interested in seating the Michigan and Florida delegations while the nomination is up for grabs. That's good for Obama. But what about factoring their voters into the counts? I think Obama can convincingly argue against factoring Michigan in, as he was not on the ballot. However, he'll have a harder time arguing that super delegates should ignore Florida voters.
This means the race is tighter than many people believe. While Clinton has to win something like 75% of the remaining pledged delegates to overtake him in that count - she only has to win about 53% of the vote to overtake him in the count that includes Florida. That's not so much a royal flush as a three-of-a-kind.
If Clinton pulls ahead of Obama in this count, she could make a compelling moral claim. I think her argument would consist of a positive and a negative component. First, she can assert that, as the popular vote winner, she is the rightful nominee of the party. She can remind super delegates that the last Democrat who won the nomination without a popular mandate was Hubert Humphrey in 1968. The debacle that followed convinced Democrats to open their process to the public. Nominating Obama would thus be inconsistent with the party's forty-year commitment to openness and inclusiveness.
Second, she can run against the nomination process itself. As I noted last week, this is a procedure that few politicos have paid attention to. So, there is little emotional investment in it, which makes it easier to attack. Imagine a split in the popular vote and the Electoral College - only this time the Electoral College does not have the Constitution conferring upon it moral legitimacy. Which count will people prefer? Similarly, Clinton can argue that Obama indeed won a plurality of pledged delegates - but that is merely a testament to the fact that the party's process is not as open as they thought. They shouldn't let the vagaries of the party's antiquated, undemocratic system determine the nominee.
In particular, Clinton can run against the caucuses. Caucuses have much lower turnout than primaries. For instance, the populations of Minnesota and Wisconsin are roughly equal. About 200,000 Democrats participated in the Minnesota caucus, compared to 1.1 million in the Wisconsin primary. Clinton, who has done very poorly in the caucuses, can argue that they are too exclusionary. There's some basic arithmetic to exploit here. "Each pledged delegate in Minnesota is worth 2,800 voters. Each pledged delegate in California is worth 12,700 voters. How is that fair?"
I think this is an argument that super delegates might find persuasive. Like the delegate system generally, there is no emotional investment in the caucus process. Caucuses are utilized because they are cheap and because they enable state parties to build their mailing lists. Nobody is particularly committed to the idea that they are right and good. Super delegates might be willing to listen to a Clinton argument against them.
We caught a glimpse of an anti-caucus argument a few weeks ago on Fox News Sunday. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland were debating the nomination process - and Strickland, a Clinton backer, made the following argument:
Caucuses elect some delegates. And you know, in caucuses, many people are totally shut out. Anyone serving in the active military can't participate in a caucus. People who are sick and confined to their homes, older people who can't get out at night, can't participate in caucuses. But that's part of the process.
Some delegates are elected through the primary system, which I hugely prefer, a primary system like we're having here in Ohio, where everyone has a chance to participate.
If Clinton ultimately wins the popular vote - expect to hear a lot more of this line.
Of course, Obama will have a powerful moral claim, too.* My discussion of Clinton's claim is not due to a personal inclination toward it. Personally, I have no strong feelings either way. I'm discussing Clinton because people are assuming that the pledged delegate lead is all that matters. I think this is untrue.
Ultimately, the strength of Clinton's argument depends upon the popular vote, which in turn requires wins in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.* So, if she wins tomorrow, we will see another pivot in the race. We'll stop asking who can knock out whom, and start asking who has the better "moral claim."
What will this look like? First, there will be a lot less action than the last few months. Between tomorrow and the Pennsylvania primary - there is the Wyoming caucus next Saturday, the Mississippi primary next Tuesday, and then six weeks of nothing. Second, the super delegates are going to become an important target of campaign activity. Neither candidate can hope to win enough pledged delegates to capture the nomination - so they will start courting the 795 super delegates quite actively.
This means that the press will suddenly be more important than it has been in months (not as important as it thinks it is, of course!). Genuine news events are not going to drive the daily cycle. Instead, it will be driven by the talk of pundits and journalists. The super delegates, all of whom are hyper-connected elites, will probably be paying close attention. So, the candidate who charms the media might be able to charm the super delegates.
This puts the Clinton campaign in a better position than it has enjoyed recently. Minimally, it will be back in its element. We all know that the Clintons are good at spinning straw into gold. Recall the rhetorical versatility of the Clinton Administration during the Lewinsky scandal. Bill Clinton's flacks did a good job framing the matter for the press, which in turn framed it for the American public. And, of course, Hillary Clinton's campaign was able to bewitch the press into believing that she was inevitable - despite Obama's record-breaking fundraising hauls through 2007. Their problem for the last few weeks is that they haven't had anything to work with. With wins tomorrow, they'll have straw to spin, time to do it, and an audience of super delegates watching them.
The Obama campaign must be ready for this. It needs to have an argument for why he should be the nominee, as well as an argument for why Clinton's argument is bunko. The next stage of the nomination could hinge upon these arguments as much as anything.
[*] I talked about Obama's argument last week. He can argue that Clinton is only complaining about the caucuses because she was unprepared. He can also turn the caucus argument against her. "So," he might ask, "what would happen if we turned all the caucuses into primaries? I would still win them all. My pledged delegate lead would shrink, but because there are more voters participating, my popular vote lead would grow." Again, my point here is not that Clinton's argument would be stronger than Obama's. It is just that her argument is strong.
[*] What happens if she wins Ohio but loses Texas? It appears that she'll stay in the race. In that case, she could ultimately articulate a compelling moral claim, but it becomes much harder. Clinton needs to eliminate the vote gap. If Obama wins Texas, Clinton will have to close a larger gap with fewer states. She still could, and she might try. However, it will be more difficult.
If she wins the popular vote, she can make that case. But she's currently down by about a million votes, and she trails even if you include Florida and Michigan (where Obama wasn't even on the ballot).
Even if she wins tonight, it's going to be close in delegates and total votes. (No poll predicts her to win by double digits in Ohio, and several have Obama ahead in Texas.) She is likely to lose in lopsided fashion down the road in states like Oregon, Mississippi and North Carlolina --which closely resemble the demographics of states Obama has dominated.
So, yes, you're right that she'll have a case if she wins the popular vote. But I think that's easier said than done.
[QUOTE=Company_Man;2410801]I'm thinking she has a bomb to drop on Obama.[/QUOTE]
I think she would have dropped it by now but I think she is certainly hoping one will come up. I can't say I blame her and until he locks it up she has every right to stay in the race, just as Huckabee does. Having said that, if she wins, I might move to Canada.
[QUOTE=ChadLover;2411121]I think she would have dropped it by now but I think she is certainly hoping one will come up. I can't say I blame her and until he locks it up she has every right to stay in the race, just as Huckabee does. Having said that, if she wins, I might move to Canada.[/QUOTE]
If you don't drop the bomb when your campaign likens its strategy to the "kitchen sink," then you have no bomb to drop. And the Clintons are not likely pulling punches.
That said, I think you're right and she's likely to hang around and hope for some new revelation that forces Obama out of the race.
What she'll have to decide, however, is how negative she wants to be if she doesn't win Texas and Ohio tonight. Huckabee is sort of hanging around, it seems, just to see if McCain has a stroke or something. He's not really attacking him with much vigor.
Clinton is really going after Obama right now, making it harder for him to focus on McCain. She absolutely should be doing that this week --she has defined this as a must-win for her-- but if Obama wins one of the big states tonight --or the overall margin for her is too close to change the delegate spread-- then, realistically, she is not going to be the nominee unless he gets indicted or something.
She'll have to decide how much she wants to help the Republicans.