Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why Michigan and Florida Don’t Matter.

After disappointing performances in North Carolina and Indiana, the Clinton campaign immediately bucked conventional wisdom (and most laws of rational thinking) by trying to claim that the magic number for clinching the nomination is not 2025, but is actually 2209 because of Michigan and Florida.

Somehow, Hillary thinks this means there won’t be a nominee when the primaries end on June 3, and that the race will have to continue to the convention in August.

To which I say the magic number is actually one, representing the number of fingers I’m holding up with one hand, while I type this with the other! And not because I'm suggesting that “Hillary is number one!"

In the world of reality, Michigan and Florida don’t matter at all, because the real magic number has to do with winning the pledged delegate race. Adding Michigan and Florida to the mix only delays the probable day of clinching by one primary. Either way, the pledged delegate race is likely to be over before the last two primaries on June 3.

The following table shows approximately how Michigan and Florida would be split under the most favorable scenario that the Clinton camp could hope for: accepting the Florida vote in its entirety; and giving Hillary her full percentage of the vote in Michigan, while giving Obama the delegates for those who voted “undecided,” since he wasn’t on the ballot.

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After adding these figures to the current totals without Michigan and Florida, the following table shows the change in the pledged delegate magic number, and the delegates needed for Obama to clinch, which changes from 33 to 84.

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Now here are the remaining primaries, with a projected share of delegates for Obama. The projected share was adapted from the early spreadsheet released by the Obama campaign, but adjusted to slightly more conservative figures in the Clinton states.

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If you follow the cumulative totals in the right column, you can see that Obama clinches the pledged delegate race on May 20 without Michigan and Florida, and clinches during the very next primary on June 1 in Puerto Rico (even with a projected loss) with Michigan and Florida!

And technically, as pocketnines explains in this Daily Kos diary, Obama essentially has 37 more pledged delegates already, because viability rules in each of the remaining 37 individual electoral districts require that he get one delegate just for meeting the 15% threshold. This means he has already clinched without Michigan and Florida, and could clinch, even with Michigan and Florida, on May 20. (note: this isn't a direct subtraction from the number needed to clinch because these "viability delegates" are included among the projections in each state. It just means he can already count on them even before the primaries are held.)

As I’ve suggested before, once Obama clinches the pledged delegate race in the eyes of the superdelegates, there will be a flood of support for Obama from those unwilling to consider overturning the will of the voters (particularly after Obama ran probably the most effective campaign in electoral history!) We’ve already seen the start of this movement from those superdelegates with rudimentary math skills, but eventually it will be obvious even to the (um, how should I say it?) “low information” superdelegates!

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