Where Are the Democrats Going to Be in June?: A Purely Speculative Exercise

By Saira Anees

Apr 10, 2008 12:12pm

This is all pure conjecture, so take it as that. But in trying to figure out where the Democrats might be in June, this is some speculative math.

Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, and Barack Obama, D-Illinois, need to win 2,025* delegates to secure the nomination.

Right now, in the ABC News count, Obama has 1,634 delegates (1,416 pledged and 218 superdelegates) and Clinton has 1,498 delegates (1,251 pledged and 247 superdelegates).

Here are the contests going forward, with the number of pledged delegates and superdelegates for each state:

Apr 22  Pennsylvania primary (158 pledged, 29 super)
May 3   Guam caucuses (4 pledged, 5 super)
May 6   Indiana primary (72 pledged, 13 super)
             NC primary (115 pledged, 19 super)
May 13  WV primary (28 pledged, 11 super)
May 20  Kentucky primary (51 pledged, 9 super)
             Oregon primary (52 pledged, 13 super)
June 1   Puerto Rico primary (55 pledged, 8 super)
June 3   Montana primary (16 pledged, 9 super)
              South Dakota primary (15 pledged, 8 super)

**

Based on poll numbers and conversations with both campaigns as well as the big brains in the ABC News Political Unit (David Chalian, Teddy Davis, Karen Travers), I will assume for the sake of argument that Clinton wins five states and territories and Obama wins five states and territories in the 10 contests remaining.

The guesses: Clinton wins Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico. And Obama wins Guam, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana and South Dakota.

In this purely speculative exercise, the total pledged delegate count of those Clinton states is 364 and the Obama states is 202.

But this is not a Republican-style winner-take-all system.

It’s proportional, because they’re Democrats.

Again, for the sake of argument, let’s assume each candidate wins pretty handily (that will not be the case in real life), 55%-45%.

55% of Clinton states = 200 pledged delegates
55% of Obama states = 111 pledged delegates

45% of Clinton states = 164 pledged delegates
45% of Obama states = 91 pledged delegates

That would mean:

Clinton pledged delegates (55% of Clinton states + 45% of Obama states) = 291 pledged delegates
Obama pledged delegates (55% of Obama states + 45% of Clinton states) = 275 pledged delegates

A net gain for Clinton of 16 pledged delegates.

**

Again, this is just speculation — doodling on the back of a napkin since I don’t have the ability to see the future.

Obama currently leads Clinton by 165 pledged delegates.  Clinton leads among superdelegates, 247 to 218, with 29 more.

Meaning Obama overall has 136 more delegates.

With my hypothetical scenario, in June, after the final contest, neither candidate would have 2,025* delegates.

Obama would have 1,909, Clinton would have 1,789.

Obama in June would still lead Clinton with 120 delegates.

Almost two more months, millions of dollars, hundreds of attacks and counter-attacks between the two campaigns later.

**

But that doesn’t include superdelegates, right?

Here’s the issue with that.

Since Feb. 5, the Obama campaign has gained 69 superdelegates. Conversely, the Clinton campaign has had a net loss of five (she gained six but lost 11).

That trend clearly doesn’t bode well for Sen. Clinton.

This is why even though Clinton could have a very strong next few weeks, with folks like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and even some Clinton supporters saying they don’t think superdelegates should "override" what the pledged delegates decide, Clinton’s fiercest opponent is the math.

And it all means that come June we could be essentially exactly where we are today, short of some serious movement by superdelegates or Democratic voters one way or another.

- jpt

UPDATE: I am being asked why I’m not counting Michigan and Florida.

Um, it’s not that I’m not counting them, friends, it’s that the Democratic National Committee isn’t.

And that’s because, as we all know, those two states disobeyed party rules and held their contests earlier than the DNC wanted them to do. (Harold Ickes, a senior adviser to Sen. Clinton, was on the relevant DNC rules committee and voted to not recognize those states’ delegates. And Clinton herself did not have anything to say about this issue until it became clear that the DNC decision might impact her presidential aspirations.)

But you can see why the Clinton campaign regards those two states and their 368 total delegates (Florida’s 185 pledged and 26 super; Michigan’s 128 pledged and 29 super) as so crucial.

And of course you can see why anyone who professes to believe in democracy and bringing people into the political process (ahem, Mr. Obama) would want those votes to count in some fashion.

So…scrawling on a napkin again…let’s game this out. (Aided once again by the big brain of ABC News’ Karen Travers, though the sheer speculation is mine.)

FLORIDA: Though the candidates did not campaign in Florida, Clinton won 50% of the vote, Obama 33%, and former Sen. John Edwards, D-NC, won 14%.

Since he did not reach the 15% threshold statewide Edwards is not eligible for at-large delegates, but since some delegates are allocated by congressional districts where he did reach 15%, Edwards does get some delegates.

So of the pledged delegates, Clinton gets 106, Obama gets 67, and Edwards gets 12. A net gain of 39 pledged delegates for her.

Of Florida’s 26 superdelegates, we know of 7 for Clinton and 4 for Obama. So that’s a net gain of 3 for her with supers, and a net gain of 42 delegates for Clinton total in Florida.

MICHIGAN: Michigan is much tougher to play out in this exercise, since Obama wasn’t even on the ballot.

You could allocate Clinton’s delegates to her and none to Obama, but that seems insane, or you could allocate Clinton’s delegates to her and those who voted "uncommitted" to Obama, but that also seems rather questionable.

Or you could split the 128 superdelegates down the middle, as Obama’s campaign has suggested, which might end up being Clinton’s best option if she wants to get those Michigan superdelegates recognized, seven of whom support her, with one supporting him.

TOTALS: So you have Clinton’s 1,789 delegates (in my completely hypothetical scenario) + 106 Florida pledged delegates + 7 Florida superdelegates + 64 Michigan pledged delegates + 7 Michigan superdelegates = 1,973 delegates.

And you have Obama’s 1,909 delegates (in my completely hypothetical scenario) + 67 pledged delegates in Florida + 4 Florida superdelegates + 64 Michigan pledged delegates + 1 Michigan superdelegate = 2,045 delegates.

But hold the phone — if Florida and Michigan count, the number of delegates needed to win the nomination jumps from 2,025* to 2,209.

So Obama in this scenario would lead Clinton by 72 delegates, but neither would have enough delegates to secure the nomination, and everything would be in the hands of the roughly 300 uncommitted superdelegates.

Obama would need 165 (about 55%) of them to get the nomination.

Clinton would need 237 (about 80%) of them.

* PLEASE NOTE: While I was doing all this math, the number of delegates required to secure the nomination changed from 2,024 to 2,025, with the swearing-in of new Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. I changed all the relevant numbers above, but there was a previous version of this post in which 2,024 was cited as the magic number. The correct number is 2,025.

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