Obama, Clinton Split Bragging Rights

Jan 19, 2008 9:45pm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis Reports: A Democrat won the popular vote, but not the electoral college votes. Sound familiar?

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., won the Nevada Democratic Caucuses, winning 51 percent of the vote to Sen. Barack Obama’s, D-Ill., 45 percent.

Each candidate is fighting to reach the critical number of 2,025 total delegates needed to win the party nomination. In Nevada tonight, 25 delegates were at stake. But the delegates are awarded proportionally by how the voting went in each district — not across the entire state.

And so ABC News has calculated that even though Clinton won the vote by a large margin, in the race for delegates, Obama gained 13, and Clinton gained only 12. In the overall delegate count so far, however, ABC News calculates that Clinton holds the current lead with 203 delegates, to Obama’s 148.

So, how is it that Obama could have lost the vote and gained more delegates?

The Obama campaign is claiming this delegate victory because of the proportional manner in which Nevada awards district delegates, especially in the state’s rural 2nd Congressional District.

On a conference call with reporters, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and Obama director of delegate selection Jeff Berman explained that Obama had the majority in districts where there were odd numbers of delegates and therefore he won the majority of delegate seats. 

Clinton won in areas where there were even numbers of delegates by a narrow margin and so those delegate seats were split evenly.

Nevada’s largely rural second congressional district is represented by Republican Rep. Dean Heller. It includes 16 of Nevada’s seventeen counties in their entirety, and portions of Clark County in southern Nevada. 

Following the Obama campaign conference call, the Clinton campaign press office told reporters that Obama’s calculus that he won more delegates in Saturday’s caucuses is faulty.

"Hillary Clinton won the Nevada Caucuses today by winning a majority of the delegates at stake," said Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson in a statement released to reporters. "The Obama campaign is wrong. Delegates for the national convention will not be determined until April 19."

On April 19, the Democratic party of Nevada will hold its statewide convention. At that point, the county delegates have the right to switch their commitments and throw their support to Clinton or another candidate, if they so choose.

Bottom line: Clinton won more county delegates that were actually at stake on Saturday. But Obama won more national delegates using the kind of extrapolation of future behavior used by ABC News, the Associated Press, and other news organizations.

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