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    February 13, 2008

    Clinton's daunting magic number: 56%

    Posted by: Andoni

    Clintoninterview A startling figure calculated by MSNBC's Chuck Todd last night was the percentage of pledged delegates that Hillary Clinton would have to win in the remaining primaries and caucuses in order to surpass Barack Obama's total of pledged delegates. That number: 56%.

    Considering that before lasat week most of the contests between Barack and Hillary were breaking nearly 50-50 on average, and that this week they have become markedly skewed in Obama's direction, 56% is a daunting number. Not that it can't be done, but it will be very very difficult. It would take a major change in the dynamics -- a gaff by Obama or an outside event that scares people back to "experience" over "change."

    The media seems to be a bit reluctant to proclaim Obama the winner after this remarkable streak of lopsided wins. They probably feel a bit burned over their post-Iowa, pre-New Hampshire over-exuberance and don't want to revisit that fiasco again. As a result they are being overly cautious and not acting in the same manner as prior elections when in this type of blowout they would be saying that if the incumbent -- or "pseudo incumbent" as Clinton is sometimes called (because of Bill and Hillary's eight years in the White House) -- is beaten this badly, the voters are rejecting the incumbent.

    In days of old, an incumbent would have to do much better than Hillary is doing to be considered viable going forward. As I put it in a a comment the other day, President Lyndon Johnson won the New Hampshire primary in 1968 over Senator Eugene McCarthy 49% to 42%. However the media deemed that Johnson lost because he was not as strong as he needed to be going forward. For an insurgent to get this close to the inevitable incumbent showed major flaws.

    When a relative newcomer is challenging an incumbent or pseudo-incumbent, the incumbent needs to wipe the floor with the insurgent -- or they lose. Hillary Clinton is losing.

    Also, as I said in other comments yesterday, if Obama started eating into Clinton demographics there would be a slow chorus re-evaluating the overall situation and suggesting that Senator Clinton step aside. I believe this will begin with the superdelegates. Look for Obama to start picking up more support here. Start listening carefully, because a chorus is going to begin shortly.

    Finally, and a little discouraging, a Clinton spokesperson said yesterday that it is entirely fair and appropriate to pressure the superdelegates to vote for Hillary and win the nomination on superdelegates even if she is behind in the pledged delegate count and popular vote at the time the convention starts. He indicated that these were the rules and that winning by getting a majority of the superdelegates (but not the pledged delegates) was a legitimate route to victory.

    If the superdelegates overturn the will of the voters, there will be a schism in the party. After Gore vs. Bush in 2000, the Democratic voters will not accept another contest in which the voters' will is overturned, just as the Supreme Court did in 2000. I hope the superdelegates aren't that stupid or self centered. This would be one of those routes to "suicide" that the Democrats are known for.

    Note from Chris:

    Just supplementing Andoni's point here is the following from MSNBC:

    For Clinton to overtake Obama for the pledged delegate lead -- which we think is the single most important statistic for the superdelegates to decide their vote -- she'll have to win 55% of the remaining delegates. Assuming next week goes Obama's way in Wisconsin and Hawaii, that percentage rises to 57%. Toss in likely Obama victories in Vermont, Wyoming, Mississippi, Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota, then Clinton's percentage need tops 60% of the remaining delegates available. And this is simply for her to regain the pledged delegate lead…

    Now the Obama camapign, which has up till now been loathe to accept "frontrunner" status, is making the same case:

    "The only way she could do it is by winning most of the rest of the contests by 25 to 30 points. Even the most creative math really does not get her, ever, back to even in terms of pledged delegates." -- Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, in a conference call with reporters, on how it's "next to impossible" for Clinton to catch up.



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