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Will North Carolina and Indiana matter?

May 7, 2008 am31 12:06 am

Yes, but probably not too much.  First, let’s throw out some projections…

In North Carolina, the last week’s worth of polls are all over the place, from Obama by 14 to Clinton by 2. RealClearPolitics selectively averages to get Obama by 8. Given Clinton’s late push, I’ll call it Obama, 5 – 9.

it’s no longer the size of the lead that matters – it’s the distance to 2024

In Indiana the lead changed hands twice… Clinton was ahead until late April, when Obama took the lead for less than a week, and now it’s back to Clinton. Polls over the last week are spread from Obama by 2 to Clinton by 12, but they are better clustered than in North Carolina, around Clinton by about 5. Again, looking at her late push, Clinton by 4 – 7.

At the end of tomorrow (because it seems to take 24 hours to sort out), we should learn that Obama has increased his delegate lead by 5 – 10. But it’s no longer the size of the lead that matters – it’s the distance to 2025 – the number of delegates needed to nominate.

Today Obama leads Clinton 1492 – 1338 in pledged delegates. What about superdelegates?

source Clinton Obama
RealClearPolitics 271 256
Politico 268 256
Dem Conv Watch 269.5 254
CNN 266 252
NBC 273 254
AP 270 255

 The spread is down to somewhere between 12 and 19 superdelegates. In February and March, only a few supers declared, but overwhelmingly for Obama. In April the pace has quickened a bit – a few every week – and more evenly divided, but still tilting Obama.

Using the AP numbers – which I like only because they fall dead middle – Obama leads 1747 – 1608. Forget the 139 delegate lead – look at how far to 2025: Obama needs 278, Clinton needs 417.

After today’s primaries, (Indiana delegates to Clinton 40 – 32, NC to Obama 64 – 51) the totals will be 1843 – 1699, but more importantly, the distance to the goalline will be Obama 182, Clinton 326.

It won’t end tonight, but even if the superdelegates start dividing dead evenly, it’s that distance to the goal that is running out. Clinton will win most of the delegates in West Virginia, Oregon, and Kentucky, all before Memorial Day, but even if she wins the delegates in those places (romps in WV and KY, holds OR close) by 85 – 45, and it won’t be that big, that 45 narrows Obama’s distance to 2025.

And? Sometime between now and the end of the month more and more supers will line up with Obama, and May 28th or something like that, it will become clear that the only reason for Clinton to stay in the race is to wait for Obama to make a mistake. At that point her advisors will push her to concede.

Or not. It would not be outrageous for her to claim that it is so close (and it is!) that going to August is the fairest thing to do. She can fight over Florida and Michigan credentials, try to flip superdelegates… but she may alienate as many as she convinces.

Either path is possible, but today’s primaries will, short of a huge upset, play no role in determining which gets followed.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2008 am31 2:50 am 2:50 am

    It kind of sounds like one of those confusing math problems to me. You know, the kind that the family agonized over forever and never came up with a clear answer.

  2. jsavage permalink
    May 7, 2008 pm31 5:24 pm 5:24 pm

    Speaking of Super Delegates, did you see the Super Delegate all in a huff on CNN last night? Anderson Cooper was moderating, and she got offended b/c a republican on the panel called the super delegates “elite.”

  3. Rachel permalink
    May 7, 2008 pm31 7:37 pm 7:37 pm

    With morning hindsight, I think NC and IN did matter. The gist of Clinton’s argument for going forward was that the last month of the campaign had fundamentally weakened Obama and changed the electorates view of the candidates. Some polls seemed to suggest that this was possible — the ones that gave her a huge lead in IN and running close in NC — but that’s not the way the voting turned out.

    This was her last real opportunity to turn things around, and it didn’t happen.

  4. May 7, 2008 pm31 9:18 pm 9:18 pm

    I agree that they ended up mattering, but just a little. I think they may have accelerated, but just slightly, the timetable I outlined.

    I still have trouble imagining Clinton dropping out immediately before primaries in states (ex KY, WV, PR) she is supposed to win.

    She still could turn it around, but not through voting. Hypothetically, a bad misstep by Obama could shake loose superdelegates.

    And, no, I don’t think that that will happen. But I think that’s what gives her campaign hope, at least for the moment.

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