Analysis: Barack and Clinton’s numbers game

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On Tuesday Senator Hillary Clinton managed to secure a slight edge over Barack Obama in terms of the number of delegates won over the course of 22 nationwide primaries.

Clinton used her experience, star quality, deep political connections and long-term history to score eight major wins in delegate-rich states – California, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

Obama played to his oratorical and organisational strengths in smaller states such as Idaho, Alaska, Delaware and North Dakota to take the advantage in terms of overall states won on the Super Tuesday.

But while both campaigns rightfully laid claim to hard-fought victories this week, the reality left behind by Tuesday’s Democratic primaries and caucuses is that it will likely not be the people or the primaries and caucuses that decide the Democratic nominee for President, but the so-called ‘superdelegates’ at what is shaping up to be a brokered convention.

That’s right folks. There are still a few rounds left to be fought. Let’s do the maths.

In order for a Democratic nominee to win the nomination outright, they need to secure 2,025 of the total 3,253 delegates available.

According to the latest tabulations, approximately 1,983 of those delegates have already been pledged post-Super Tuesday with 1,024 delegates tallied for Hillary Clinton, 933 for Barack Obama and 26 for John Edwards.

That leaves just 1,270 delegates left up for grabs in the upcoming Democratic contests.

Senator Clinton would need to score approximately 79% of the remaining delegates in order to win the nomination outright, while Barack Obama would need an even more staggering 86% to take the nomination.

The upcoming primaries in Louisiana, Washington DC and Maryland tend to favour Barack Obama, because of the significant African-American population voting in them.

Delegate-heavy contests in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania favour former First Lady Clinton by double digits.

The likelihood that either candidate will hit that magic 2,025 mark before the convention is pretty unconceivable (barring an act of God).

Even factoring in the possibility of seating Florida and Michigan’s delegates and presuming an absolutely equitable split of the remaining delegates right down the middle (which seems to be the modus operandi of this election cycle on the Democratic side), both candidates would fall short.

We are left with the possibility of a brokered convention decided by superdelegates.

What Is A Brokered Convention?

If no candidate receives enough votes on the first ballot to win the nomination, the convention is brokered by superdelegates, made up of the party elite.

Who Are Superdelegates?

At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, there will be 796 superdelegates, made up of high ranking former Democratic officeholders including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, former Vice-Presidents Walter Mondale and Al Gore and former Senate Minority Leader, Tom Daschle.

Then there are all the Democratic members of the United States Congress, Democratic Governors, various additional elected officials and members of the Democratic National Committee.

Superdelegates can vote any way they choose, so it is ultimately their vote that may decide who will represent the Democrats on the ticket come November.

If that happens, the Democratic nominee will make history for two reasons.

Not only will that candidate be the first woman or African-American to become a major party Presidential nominee in a general election, they will also be the first candidate to win the nomination as a result of a brokered convention in more than five decades (Adlai Stevenson was the last to win in this fashion back in 1952).

So far, Senator Clinton seems to be leading among rank and file Democrats, but that could change at any point right up until the convention.

All of this poses a big problem for the Democrats as the Republicans consolidate their support behind John McCain, now that Mitt Romney has dropped out of the race.

A brokered convention is only further evidence of a bitterly divided Democratic party.

No matter which way the Democratic superdelegates vote, approximately half the party will be left feeling disenfranchised by their decision.

That could ultimately hurt voter turnout and potentially fatally wound the chances of the nominee on the Democratic side, as pro-Obama and pro-Clinton supporters swing their support to John McCain or a last minute independent entry in the general election.

All of this is of course great news for Republicans, who once saw their chances of occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four year as slim to none, but can now breathe a sigh of relief as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama duke it out for a spot in championship bout in November against John McCain that neither is an odds on favourite to win.

Duane Wells

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