Clinton's Delegate Math Challenge


It should come as no surprise that political science was Hillary Clinton's major at Wellesley College. But these days, she may be wishing she'd majored in math instead.

After eight straight primary losses, the New York senator is facing a mathematical quandary in the equation that would lead her to the Democratic party's nomination. She isn't expected to win upcoming contests in Wisconsin and Hawaii next Tuesday, which will further advance Sen. Barack Obama's delegate accumulation.

Her campaign is arguing she never expected to win in these states. It is counting on big wins in delegate-rich Ohio and Texas voting on March 4, and Pennsylvania voting April 22, to move her delegate count forward and stop Obama's momentum.

Clinton's Path to Nomination

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.

Today the Obama campaign claimed Clinton's shot at the nomination has ended.

"We believe it's next to impossible for Senator Clinton to close that pledged delegate count," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters on a conference call today.

"The only way she could do it is winning most of the rest of the contests by 25 to 30 points, and we see not a single contest on the calendar left where we would expect her to win by those margins," Plouffe said.

Disputing Obama's delegate math today, the Clinton campaign argued Obama won't have the support of enough delegates and superdelegates to sew up the nomination before the party's August convention either.

The Clinton campaign is predicting that neither campaign will get to the 2,025 delegates needed to win the nomination before the convention.

If that happens, superdelegates — those 796 party officials, members of Congress, and former Democratic presidents who can vote for any candidate they wish — could be the ultimate deciders in the nomination battle.

"No one is going to get to 2,025 without a considerable number of super delegates, " Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson told reporters today. "We are looking right now essentially at a tied contest."

"Look, our point of view is that the goal of this process is to acquire 2,025 delegates to the national convention and that at the end of the day on the floor … we will be within 25," Wolfson said.

The majority of superdelegates are sitting on the fence, but among those who have decided whom to back, Clinton leads Obama, according to ABC News' latest tallies. Obama has warned superdelegates to vote the way their home state voted.

Clinton's Tough Spot

With Obama's momentum on a roll, former George W. Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd says it will be very difficult now for Clinton to win the nomination.

"It's a very tough spot she's in," Dowd said. "She's in this time frame where she can't throw up a road block, there's no primary or caucus that can stop Obama's momentum in any real way until March 4 and that's a long period of time to go without winning."

Dowd said her first opportunity to change the narrative of Obama's win will be the debate in Austin, Texas, next week.

Campaigning in Texas today, Clinton said she isn't giving up.

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