In Tight '08 Contest, the Race Is on for Delegates

Clinton and Obama wage a tight fight for votes and delegates.

ByABC News
January 22, 2008, 6:26 PM

April 23, 2008 — -- Remember all those predictions about how the Democratic winner in Iowa would slingshot toward the nomination with a ton of momentum at his or her back? And what about all that focus on New Hampshire? Or Super Tuesday becoming a general election-like battle for states?

If your political GPS tells you we're well beyond the battle for early state momentum it's dead on. Welcome to the world of delegates.

Unlike November's winner-take-all system of electoral votes, Super Tuesday, the Feb. 5 nationwide battle for delegates, was largely proportional, leaving the Democratic contest split while propelling Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., toward the Republican nomination.

Following Super Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., went on an impressive 10-0 run against rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., which was only broken by critical Clinton wins in Texas and Ohio on March 4 and Pennsylvania on April 22.

On both sides of the aisle, candidates have to win a simple majority of delegates to secure the nomination. That is, half the total convention delegates plus one.

For Democrats, that magic number is 2,025 out of 4,048 total delegates; for Republicans, it's 1,191 out of 2,380 delegates.

In previous cycles, the combination of early momentum and candidate withdrawals allowed the nomination to be effectively sewn up before the candidate hit the actual magic number of needed delegates.

But this election has been like no other -- defying expectations and countering conventional wisdom at almost every turn.

The two parties differ in their rules for defining and allocating delegates, and perhaps it's no surprise that the two parties' philosophies on this process reflect their overall political philosophies.

The Democratic National Committee oversees its party's delegate process, acting as a central authority for the 50 states and territories, and applying the same standards and rules across the board to each delegate race.

Unlike the GOP, there are no winner-take-all states on the Democratic side. Democrats accumulate delegates proportionally, using the popular vote from either the state or district contests.