The Note: Super Valentines


As the candidates stamp their Valentine's Day cards for the superdelegates, know these two facts about the Democratic race:

Sen. Barack Obama has an edge, but he also has a math problem.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has the same math problem -- and also a democracy problem.

That's why they're both trying to tweak the rules of the nomination process in the middle of the game. (And it's why the Democratic Party just may need an elder to step in -- Al Gore, the party turns its lonely eyes to you. . . .)

By ABC's count, Obama, D-Ill., now leads by 51 in the delegate race -- and it's only that close because of Clinton's big edge among the superdelegates.


But Obama is not going to get close to 2,025 unless the superdelegates flock to him -- and thus the call from campaign manager David Plouffe for the supers to endorse the delegate leader, which is decidedly not what the system was created for. (Who likes looking inevitable now?)

Clinton, D-N.Y., has a trickier problem: She's falling behind in a game that's hard to catch up in. Her only paths -- even if played within the party's rules -- are ugly: Either her team manages to twist enough arms to get her the overwhelming support of the superdelegates (how many of these folks can be reminded of the jobs they had in the Clinton administration?), or she gets Michigan and Florida (contests she knew offered no delegates when she chose to semi-compete there) to count.

This is a Republican dream: "Neither candidate is expected to win the 2,025 pledged delegates needed to claim the nomination by the time the voting ends in June," Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times.

"Mr. Obama's campaign began making a case in earnest on Wednesday that if he maintained his edge in delegates won in primaries and caucuses, he would have the strongest claim to the backing of the [superdelegates]," he writes.

"With every delegate precious, Mrs. Clinton's advisers also made it clear that they were prepared to take a number of potentially incendiary steps to build up Mrs. Clinton's count. Top among these, her aides said, is pressing for Democrats to seat the disputed delegations from Florida and Michigan."

In the perception game, not all delegates are created equal. This is a bad formula for Clinton -- complicated by the fact that she could extend her losing streak to 10 next week, and that even convincing victories in Ohio and Texas March 4 are unlikely to vault her into the lead among delegates who are elected, not selected.

"While Clinton still has a viable path to the nomination, that path was further clouded Tuesday when Obama made in-roads into demographic groups once thought to be Clinton's core: women, white men, Hispanics, and low-income Democrats," ABC's Jennifer Parker writes.

But, says Clinton communications chief Howard Wolfson, a tie is still possible (and Clinton likes her chances in a tie ballgame): "No one is going to get to 2,025 without a considerable number of superdelegates."

Yes, the Clintons have the edge with the supers -- but these are savvy politicians in their own right, who like to be with winners. "Conversations with party officials and an informal survey of the delegates show it's more likely they'll get behind the candidate who wins the most votes," Heidi Przybyla and Catherine Dodge write for Bloomberg News.

One very big hint from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is neutral in the race: "They'll be sensitive to the public will."

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