Delegate Count

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

The actual numbers are to be determined (New Mexico is still a question mark), but it looks like — no matter how you slice it — Obama won more delegates than Clinton yesterday.  MSNBC says he picked up 840 to 849 delegates versus 829-838 for Clinton.  They add:

Yet with Clinton’s overall superdelegate lead (259-170, based on the lists they’ve released to us), and when you toss in the 63-48 lead Obama had among pledged delegates going into Super Tuesday, it appears Clinton has about 70 more overall delegates than Obama does (1140-1150 for Clinton versus 1070 to 1080 for Obama). It’s that close, folks…

But as things stand now, Obama has a slight edge in pledged delegates (Dems who vote in primaries and caucuses), while Clinton has a slight edge in superdelegates (lawmakers, governors, DNC members, establishment types).

So what does this spell?  B-R-O-K-E-R-E-D C-O-N-V-E-N-T-I-O-N.  As Jonathan Cohn explains, it’s going to be tricky for either of them to get to the magic number of 2,025 delegate

In the remaining primaries and caucuses, only 1,787 delegates are at stake. So to win the nomination on pledged delegates alone, a candidate has to win 57 percent of those at stake. And that won’t be so easy to do.

Remember, the Democrats don’t have winner-take-all contests anymore. The primaries and caucuses award delegates with formulas that are based on proportional representation. In a situation where two candidates, each with solid funding, are running strong, it will be difficult to run up large margins. It’s entirely possible we’ll see a lot of results like last night, in which — after all the back-and-forth over who won which state — the two finished nearly even in delegates won.

So what happens in that increasingly likely event?

Ordinarily, a candidate emerges through the nominating process, and the superdelegates are along for the ride.  This year, however, the pledged delegates probably won’t be sufficient to put either candidate over the top.  And that favor Clinton.

I don’t expect many voters will like a brokered convention, where superdelegates — who don’t necessarily have to follow anything other than their own conscience — and — who are political "insiders" — get to choose the nominee.

Barack Obama seems well aware of this scenario, and explained his perspective at a press conference in Chicago this morning.

Obama also made some interesting comments about his route to the nomination, saying that he’ll amass a higher total of pledged delegates as a way of putting pressure on committed super-delegates to honor the Democratic process, forgo back-room politics, and back the candidate with the most public support.

“If this contest comes down to super-delegates, I think we’re going to be able to say that we have more pledged delegates — meaning that the Democratic voters have spoken,” Obama said. “And I think that those SD’s who are elected officials, party insiders, would have to think long and hard about how they approach the nomination when the people they claim to represent have said, `Obama’s our guy.’”