Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Where the Real Election Is

The vultures were picking at Hillary Clinton in late February as the media was beginning to leave her for dead in the presidential race. But last night Clinton staged another comeback by winning Texas and Ohio primaries without the aid of crying in front of television audiences (for once). And now the theme in the press is that Clinton's campaign is rejuvenated, and the primary will still be quite contested until the Democratic Convention, which will give every Democrat in America the chance for their primary votes to actually mean something (incluso ustedes, Puerto Rico). This is a lie.

After last night's primaries, it is now mathematically impossible for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to win the nomination without the aid of superdelegates. Unlike pledged delegates, superdelegates can vote whichever way they choose using whatever rationale they choose, and as Georgia representative John Lewis proved last week, they are not even obligated to stay on the same side that they had previously "committed" to. Even if Barack Obama, the pledged delegate leader, were to win 100% of the remaining pledged delegates, he would still have to make sure that at least 46 of his superdelegates remained on his side.

Now, in all likelihood it would not be hard at all to retain the support of 46 fickle party leaders, but a complete sweep of pledged delegates from now until the convention will never happen, not even if Mike "I Majored in Miracles" Huckabee was still in the race. At the very best, you're never going to get more than 75% of people in a state to agree on the same person, and that would be even assuming some kind of major blunder by an opponent. If Barack Obama won 75% of the remaining pledged delegates, he would still need 200 superdelegates. Since both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be campaigning as hard as they can the next month or two, no candidate will get more than about 55% of the remaining delegates. This means Obama will need somewhere between 320-380 superdelegates to gain the nomination, while Clinton will need somewhere between 460-520. This is the only part of the primary election that still matters.

If I was a candidate running for president and looking at these numbers, I would be diverting as many of my resources as legally possible in trying to convince everyone on the superdelegate list that I was the best choice. I'm not really sure what lobbying rules there are for buying influence with superdelegates, but I'd be buying all that I could buy because basically the pledged delegates no longer matter. Obama for instance has already raised somewhere like $80 million this year. If I had that money, you can bet that I'd be buying every superdelegate a few steak dinners, a few new cars and a high dollar hooker or two (but then, I'd be corrupt). But my point is that at best, all the campaigning, rallying and debating in the world will only serve now to reduce the number of superdelegates needed by about 50 or 60. It's a much more efficient use of time and money to go exclusively after superdelegates.

(Reference: Slate's Delegate Calculator)


Jacob said...

"And now the theme in the press is..."

Wouldn't elections be quasi-bearable if there weren't press-imposed themes?

Steve said...

I always think it would be better if we could just look at the numbers and argue among ourselves who had momentum, but the talking heads have to go and ruin it for us. (But I'm at least glad The Talking Heads don't ever ruin much of anything, except I guess for that house they burned down.)

GrooveAuthority said...

Ohhhhhhhh! Watch Out! You might get what your after!

Seriously though, this whole thing brings two questions to my mind:
1) How exactly does one become a superdelegate (outside of being born on Krypton, or Berkley)?
2) Would Al Gore go into convulsions if the final act of the 2000 Presidential Race plays out in the 2008 Democratic preliminary (i.e. someone "wins" all the primaries, but the superdelegates swing it back to the other side)? Can this even be done, or am I an idiot?

Anonymous said...

Mike, you're awesome. I had no idea that superdelegates could fly, but now I know their weakness! Mua ha ha!