Cos (cos) wrote,

Obama vs. Clinton: How over is it?

A month ago I posted to show that Obama would win the Democratic nomination - that he'd already won enough votes and delegates to ensure his eventual victory, and there was no reasonable scenario for Clinton to campaign her way to a win.*

Yesterday, Clinton won West Virginia 67% - 26% - 7% (Edwards), her second-biggest percentage win so far, and only the second state where she's hit 60%. She gave a victory speech where she implied she could still win. In case this leaves you wondering whether she's making a comeback, or has a chance, here's an update on the delegate math:

WV has 28 pledged delegates. Edwards got 7% - his first time getting over 2% since early February. Since he didn't meet the threshold to earn delegates, WV's actual delegate split was determined only by the 93% of voters who voted for Clinton or Obama, so it was as if Clinton won 72%-28%. She'll probably get 20, and Obama will get 8.

There are 3253 total pledged delegates. Edwards has 19 of them, leaving 3234. 50% of that is 1617.

Before West Virginia
pledged delegates already won ~1592~1425
pledged delegates remaining 217217
% of remaining needed to end up ahead 12%88%
After West Virginia
pledged delegates from WV 820
new total pledged delegates ~1600~1445
pledged delegates remaining 189189
% of remaining needed to end up ahead 9%91%

West Virginia was always going to be Clinton's best non-home state, beacuse of its demographics. All you really need to see it clearly is this map. She could do almost as well in Kentucky, but she won't do nearly this well in Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota (in fact, she'll probably lose several of them).
    WV + KY = 79 delegates, or 36% of the 217 that were remaining.
    OR + PR + MT + SD = 138 delegates, or 64% of the 217 that were remaining.
Still, let's speculate: What if Clinton does as well in all the remaining states as she did in WV. We'll split the remaining 189 delegates 72%-28%:

new pledged delegates 53136
new total pledged delegates ~1653~1581

That leaves Obama ahead by 72. Even if Clinton were to gain 38 from seating Florida as-is, plus 10 from the Michigan Democratic Party's compromise proposal of 59-69, he still wins! Not that that's going to happen, but even that unrealistically optimistic scenario doesn't win it for her.

As for superdelegates: I said in my original post that:
  • As a group, superdelegates won't let Clinton get the nomination if she can't lead in pledged delegates.
  • Remaining undeclared superdelegates will not break strongly for Clinton; if they liked her that much, they wouldn't still be undeclared.
Support for my hypothesis has emerged: Over the past week, Obama has gained several superdelegate endorsements almost every day, while Clinton has gained very few, all of which have been cancelled out by superdelegates who had formerly endorsed her switching to Obama. He pulled ahead of her last week in the superdelegate count. He even netted several new ones the day before West Virginia, and several more today.

In order to further her goal of winning the pledged delegate counts, Clinton needed to win WV by at least 88%. She didn't do nearly that well. In order to further her goal of getting close enough to Obama to challenge him at the convention on the basis of Michigan and Florida, she needed to win WV in the low 70's. She fell just short of that goal, too.

She now needs to win remaining states by an average of 92% to win outright, or by an average of 76% to come within "Michigan & Florida" range of winning. Her top three states so far have been Arkansas (70%), West Virginia (67%), and New York (58%). To win, by any scenario, she needs to average significantly better than her best states so far, in all remaining states. And that's assuming the superdelegates don't keep flooding to Obama, which they probably will, at least in part because they want to head off any chance of a convention fight.

Short answer: No. She's so far behind that her WV win actually left her worse off.

Oregon will probably finish it.

Update: Last night, John Edwards endorsed Obama. Edwards' pledged delegates, like all pledged delegates, have always been technically free to vote for whoever they want to; however, now that his campaign is officially over, they will feel freer to vote for their second choice, and their second choices aren't all known. Traditionally, though, they should mostly vote for Edwards' choice, Obama. They're somewhere between pledged delegates and superdelegates. How many are there? Official counts all say 19, but that's not quite true. There are 3 different kinds of Edwards delegates:
  • 16 - real live pledged delegates who were elected from IA, NH, and SC. These are people, whose names are known, whose first choice candidate was Edwards. Chances are most, though not necessarily all, will vote for Obama.
    Net gain for Obama: 10-16

  • 3 - An estimate of how many statewide Iowa delegates Edwards would've gotten at the upcoming Iowa state Democratic convention. That's where the reported "19" (16+3) comes from. Since he's ended his campaign & endorsed, though, it is probable (though uncertain) that the Edwards organization won't be active & organized enough at the state convention to get these delegates. If so, these 3 slots will go to the other candidates in proportion to their relative strengths in Iowa: 2 for Obama, 1 for Hillary.
    Net gain for Obama: 1

  • 13 - Edwards actually won 13 more delegates in Florida, but these haven't been counted because Florida isn't supposed to count. This means Hillary probably doesn't gain as much from Florida as she was hoping to, if there's a compromise. For example, maybe the DNC will decide to seat Florida as-is but assign all 13 to Obama. Or maybe they'll give Florida half delegates, and the 6.5 Edwards delegates (13 people with 50% voting strength each) will mostly go for Obama.
    Net gain for Obama: ~6-13 if Florida is seated

Overall, this probably means a +11 - +17 delegate gain for Obama, and cuts Clinton's possible advantage from seating Florida by ~6-13 depending on how Florida is handled.

* Clinton could still be nominated if some big unexpected thing happens, such as a Spitzer-like scandal, but that's not something she can campaign for; if it happens, it'll happen, regardless of what she does.
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