Political pundits are beginning to sense an end to the Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Last week Peggy Noonan wrote a column questioning how gracious Hillary Clinton would be in defeat. This week **** Morris predicted an eventual nomination victory for Barack Obama and the end of the pursuit of the White House by the former First Lady.
So are these pundits correct? Is the race for the Democratic party nomination over? Will it in fact be Barack Obama and John McCain in a race for the White House in the fall? Since at this point in the campaign it is all about the delegate count, let’s look at the possibilities.
The delegate count after last night’s Potomac Primaries is still very close with Obama leading Clinton by just 67 delegates (1242 to 1175) according to CBS News. The magic number for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination is 2025. Nevertheless the campaign of Hillary Clinton certainly appears to be in big trouble.
Hillary Clinton has lost every primary and caucus since Super Tuesday and her prospects for victory are slim for the rest of the month of February. She has loaned her campaign five million dollars according to various news reports. Her senior staff has been working without pay and her campaign is currently raising half of the amount of new campaign funds on a daily basis in comparison to the campaign of her opponent. She has just replaced her campaign manager.
The Clinton current campaign strategy is to conserve money and concede the remaining state primaries in February to Obama. The campaign is concentrating on winning the remaining primaries in March, April, and May. This would give Barack Obama substantial victories in all the remaining primaries in February (Hawaii, Wisconsin, and Washington). It should give him about 1300 total delegates on March 1, 2008.
This February election result would insure that Clinton would trail Obama by around 90 – 100 delegates entering the March 4, 2008 primary contests of Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont. She will have not beaten Obama in a primary or caucus for a month. To remain in the race, Clinton would need victories approaching 60% of the vote in every remaining state except Mississippi in the month of March. If she somehow pulled this result off she would have about 1436 delegates on April 1, 2007. Obama would win about 165 delegates and his total would be 1465. The dubious news for Hillary Clinton is that Obama would still remain ahead at the end of March in delegates even if Clinton ran the table in March and won each contest (except Mississippi) by a 60-40% margin.
In April, 151 delegates will be at stake in the state of Pennsylvania. Let’s assume that Hillary Clinton wins that state with 60% of the vote and captures the same proportion of delegates. Her delegate total would be 1556 to Obama’s 1522, giving her a slight lead in delegate count. There would be 214 remaining delegates for the candidates to battle for during the primaries in the month of May.
Therefore, for Hillary Clinton to regain the lead on pledged delegates from Obama, she needs to win all the primaries (except Mississippi) with at least 60% of the vote in March and April. She needs to win the primaries in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania. She needs to achieve these primary victories with 60% or more of the vote. She will be outspent by the Obama campaign since he is raising more money. She also needs to produce these victories after a month of non-stop primary losses. Clinton also must realize that this is the same dubious strategy that did not turn out well for Republican Rudy Giuliani at the beginning of the 2008 election season. Based on all these factors, her chance to secure the Democratic Party nomination at this point look like a long shot indeed.
It is true that there are still about 500 remaining Democratic Party super delegates that remain uncommitted to any candidate. These delegates are Democratic party members and insiders. The problem for Hillary Clinton is that these delegates will quickly jump aboard the campaign that looks like a winner during March. After the primaries on March 4, 2008, if Obama is still ahead by at least 100 delegates and has won most of the state primaries and caucuses ( he has won 23 of the 35 to date), the super delegates will begin to endorse him in significant numbers and the Democratic race will be all but over.
The fact is that Obama has been endorsed by too many Democratic party regulars to be a victim of a back room deal that would have most of the remaining super delegates endorse Hillary Clinton. Also, the Democratic party will be careful not to allow insiders to appear to overturn the actual voting results of the primary states. However, in a last desperate attempt to stave off defeat, Hillary Clinton will probably try to use the disqualified delegates in the Michigan and Florida primaries to her advantage. These delegates were disqualified because each state moved its primary forward in the 2008 election calendar. As a result of breaking party rules the states delegates are not currently included in the delegate totals of either candidate.
In general, Hillary Clinton has to hope she can stop Obama’s political momentum very soon. Indeed, it now looks like she will be behind by nearly 100 delegates after all the February primaries are finished. One hundred delegates is a dangerous number to be trailing in this election year with the Democratic Party rule of proportionate allocation of the vote for each states delegates. Her only remaining hope is to run the table with big (twenty percentage point) wins in all the remaining primaries during the months of March, April, and May. However, her campaign’s last stand may well turn out to be on March 4, 2008 in either Ohio or Texas.
It is interesting to see how things can change so quickly in politics. Six months ago, Hillary Clinton was the candidate of inevitability and Barack Obama was the candidate of hope. In February 2008, each candidate’s prospects for the Democratic Presidential nomination are now exactly the reverse.
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