Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Monitor vs. the Merrimack
If you're following the Democratic presidential nomination contest, it might be time to make yourself comfortable:

[I]t is now basically mathematically impossible for either Clinton or Obama to win the nomination through the regular voting process (meaning the super-delegates decide this one, baby!).

Here's the math. There are 3,253 pledged delegates, those doled out based on actual voting in primaries and caucuses. And you need 2,025 to win the nomination.

To date, about 55% of those 3,253 delegates have been pledged in the voting process -- with Clinton and Obamb roughly splitting them at about 900 delegates a piece.

That means there are now only about 1,400 delegates left up for grabs in the remaining states and territories voting.

So, do the math. If they both have about 900 pledged delegates so far, they need to win more than 1,100 of the remaining 1,400 delegates to win the nomination through actual voting.

Ain't gonna happen, barring a stunning scandal or some new crazy revelation. So, they'll keep fighting this thing out, each accumulating their chunk of delegates, one of them holding a slight edge and bothing finishing the voting process with 1,600 or so delegates.

And then the super delegates decide this thing.

A couple questions suggest themselves. First of all, why exactly is this so tough to describe? This guy, a Washington Post political reporter, explained it just fine. My cynical side wonders if the issue is that declaring the next three-plus months of contests "meaningless" would depress newspaper sales--which of course is the point of their business. (My inner hosanna guy says that if this is what it takes to spur democratic participation, that's fine.)

But we've already seen the usually hyperbolic press be relatively ho-hum about some fairly big news: Clinton's win in California wasn't played up nearly as much as I thought it would be. Maybe this is because everyone realized John Zogby was characteristically full of shit; maybe it was yet another application of the anti-Clinton bias in the press--though, while I recognize that bias, I also think the only story they love even more than her falling short is her as "comeback kid"... so I'm forced to conclude that the media actually is telling the story right, e.g. on the Democratic side, it's been about the delegate count rather than who "wins" states.

So the second question is, what's at stake if a knockout blow is all but out of the question? I guess it's possible that if either candidate tears off a bunch of wins in a row--which hasn't happened at all in the cycle yet--the public and private pressure will mount for the other one to withdraw "for the good of the party." Maybe the most likely scenario here is that Obama wins most or all the contests between now and early March, Clinton starts running out of money again--though she's evidently reaped a windfall since Tuesday--and with that in mind, she bows out.

I don't think this will happen; whether you see it as an admirable quality or a character flaw, she's a stubborn lady. And the Clintons, in their usual spin-addled way, likely would hang in at least through Texas and Ohio on March 5 out of the usual mixture of ostensible principle and actual self-interest. (Listen closely and you can almost hear one of their spokesweasels: "Don't Buckeyes and Lone Star Staters deserve a choice, and a voice?") But I think it's even tougher for the "movement candidate," Obama, to pull out because so many of us are literally invested in him. To raise $8 million in 48 hours, basically without lifting a finger, and then walk away even a month later, would represent really bad form and hurt him for years to come.

So this is probably going on for awhile. There's some risk, though not I think huge risk, that it hurts the Democrats later on; hopefully this can be avoided by back-channel injunctions from Howard Dean and others to keep the blows above the belt. The Monitor and the Merrimack blasted away at each other for a long time too, ultimately to no outcome.

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