The Shape of the Race After Super Tuesday

There is still no exact count of how the Super Tuesday delegates will be divided but the consensus now seems to be that Obama won slightly more delegates than Clinton, with estimates in the neighborhood of a ten delegate advantage for Obama. This would continue the trend from the start of the nomination battle that Obama has beaten or tied Clinton each day they competed for delegates. Previously Obama beat Clinton for delegates in Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina, and tied in New Hampshire.

Considering the strength of the Clinton political machine and Clinton’s huge leads in the national polls going into these contests, this is an impressive achievement for Obama. The next series of states favors Obama, which should place him in the lead in the delegate count despite Clinton’s current overall lead due to super delegates. Clinton is counting on wins in larger states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania towards the end of the primaries. There are two problems with this strategy. A string of wins for Obama could give him the momentum to win in these states. Even if he should lose, Obama has an excellent chance of keeping Clinton’s margin of victory low enough to prevent her from gaining a significant edge in proportionally allocated delegates. The Politico outlines why Clinton should be worried.

Another problem for Clinton is financial. Obama brought in over twice as much money in donations in January. Clinton’s problem might be that her donors maxed out early. In contrast Obama keeps bringing in new donors, and he has a larger number of contributors who are giving small sums and are free to continue doing so. Obama is projected to raise another $30 million in February. It was revealed today that Clinton has loaned her campaign $5 million. Some of her staff are even working without pay. It was one thing for John Kerry to mortgage his home before the primaries began to become competitive in 2003. To need to use personal money at this stage, while Obama is bringing in record contributions, looks like a sign of weakness. Highlighting the fortunes made by the Clintons after Bill left the White House might also be damaging as they court downscale voters in a manner similar to the stories about John Edwards’ mansion and $400 haircuts.

The Clinton campaign also has a habit of miscalculations in trying to win the spin war. Today they made themselves look foolish by trying to portray Obama as the “establishment candidate.”

Despite Obama’s high profile endorsements, Obama fits the usual pattern of an insurgent candidate taking on the establishment candidate–who is clearly Hillary Clinton. She tried to run as virtually an incumbent, with her campaign being based upon displaying an aura of inevitability. Obama breaks from the pattern of insurgent candidates only in that he has the chance to be successful. In a typical election year, the insurgent candidate would have fallen seriously behind the establishment candidate after an event such as Super Tuesday. Instead Obama has shown that he would make a better president than Clinton and has managed to beat her for both delegates and contributions.

Between the number of super delegates, and the disqualification of the Michigan and Florida delegates, it is looking questionable as to whether either candidate will go into the convention with enough delegates to win. Howard Dean has expressed hope that the candidates will “make some kind of an arrangement” if neither has enough delegates to win the nomination. It is difficult to see what type of agreement could be reached. Should neither candidate pick up enough delegates to win we might see a bitter floor fight over the fate of the Michigan and Florida delegates. The nomination might also be decided by the super delegates.

Should Obama continue to win the majority of delegates in primaries and caucuses and should the super delegates in the party establishment give Clinton the nomination there are two words for this outcome: “President McCain.” It is hard to see the young voters, independent voters, or black voters who have supported Obama turn out to support Clinton should the party establishment hand the nomination to Clinton. Clinton did receive the support of those super delegates who committed to a candidate early, but the bulk of them remain uncommitted. There is an excellent chance that those who did not commit to Clinton early had reservations about her, or would be willing to consider the advantages to the party in giving the nomination to the candidate who has won more delegates due to support in both the blue states and in the red states.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Wayne says:

    Ron,
    I agree that Clinton gets the nomination either via super delegates or by getting her bogus victories in Michigan and Florida (where all candidates originally agreed to not campaign), it would turn off (for more than just election) a lot of young voters that are looking for change in the political processes in this country. If Clinton wins the nomination by old back-room dealing, the only thing that could keep McCain from winning the election would be his choice of running mate, given that I see the Democrats (especially if Billary are campaining) using McCain’s age as a focus, with the threat that a 72 yo man may not finish a four year term.

  2. 2
    Ryan says:

    Ok, two thoughts. 1)Can pledged super delegates change allegiance? If not, why not? They’re supposed to be able to give their delegates to whomever they want, so why can’t they change if it’s going to cause so much controversy? 2)I definitely agree with both Ron and Wayne that a Clinton nomination without a majority of regular delegates would be disastrous. I would think the DNC and Howard Dean would know this too, and they could do something to avoid it. But if not maybe we can persuade them. Perhaps with emails?

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    They can change. When they say a super delegate is supporting a candidate it is simply who they say they are supporting but they are not locked into anything.

  4. 4
    Wayne says:

    Yes the super-delegate can change at any time. As far as Dean and the DNC trying to fix the “problem” of super-delegates voting against the will of the people, recall that the super-delegate system was put in place to allow the DNC some control, after the 72 McGovern and 76 Carter nominations took the DNC by suprise.

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