4.26.2008

In replay of late February arguments, campaigns spar on need for more debates

Since the end of February, Barack Obama has been trying to portray his nomination as a done deal while Hillary Clinton is doing what she can to convince voters and pundits that the race is still wide open. She told Newsweek last week that, "Neither of us can win without superdelegates. Neither of us can possibly get to the nomination unless something totally unforeseen happens." Of course, his argument is much closer to the truth than hers is, but as long as Clinton is staying in the race, winning major primaries by convincing margins and forcing Obama to respond to her criticisms, it is difficult to argue that the race isn't in some sense competitive and it makes it impossible for him to move on beyond the primaries.

In a predictable dynamic, the Obama campaign is increasingly trying to act like this is not a competitive race while Hillary's is coming up with new tactics to transform this race into the suspenseful contest of the century -- and these dueling spins are coming head-to-head on the issue of whether there will be more debates. The Obama campaign today announced that there would be no debates before May 6th; they had already declined one in North Carolina to be broadcast in CBS and they have now also rejected one in Indiana. With 21 debates already held, Obama insists, it is more important for him to talk to voters.

The Clinton campaign is now complaining Obama is ducking debate -- but you might remember that they tried to make this into an issue in the run-up to the Wisconsin primary, and we all know how that contest ended. The Clinton campaign is thus upping the stakes this time, calling for the organization of debates in the style of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates, in honor of their 150th anniversary! In a letter she wrote to David Plouffe, Maggie Williams proposes that the two candidates respond to each other with no set agenda and no set rules, with each Senator answering the other for 2 minutes; they could thus stay on an issue as long as they want, and just see where their conversation takes them.

In her quest to still be taken as a legitimate candidate that has been dealt with seriously, Clinton obviously would love as many debates as possible -- and the more momentous the better. In a debates, the front-runner is forced to acknowledged that his nomination has not reached inevitability status; also, debate coverage in the media necessarily emphasizes horse race story lines -- did candidates help themselves, hurt themselves, who won -- thus treating both candidates as having a chance at clinching the nomination, which is exactly the impression Hillary wants to portray. Finally, Clinton needs as many events in the coming weeks as possible for her (and superdelegates) to have something to wait for. As soon as everything but the convention is taken care of, what can Clinton say she is staying in for and how can she make superdelegates hold on?

Meanwhile, the latest Gallup tracking poll (the first taken entirely since the Pennsylvania primary) has Clinton closing the gap with Obama entirely, with the two candidates tied at 47%. On Monday, Obama led by 10%. In the general election, Clinton has opened up a 3% lead with McCain, while Obama is tied with the Republican at 45%. A Newsweek poll released today and also conducted after the primary has better news for the Illinois Senator -- tough he suffers from a big drop here as well. In primary numbers, he is ahead of Clinton 48% to 41%, but that's a 12% tightening since the 19% lead Obama had last week (worth noting that the previous poll looked like an outlier, so the trendline might stronger than it should be because of that). In the general election, both Democrats lead McCain by 3%, 48% to 45% for Clinton and 47% for 44% for Obama.

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32 Comments:

  • Because of the creation of the superdelegates and their intended purpose, this race is competitive until one candidate opens up a 800+ lead in pledged delegates. Since that is impossible now for either side the race is still completely up in the air. It is in no way a done deal for Barack and although it may seem unlikely the conventional wisdom favors a massive shift to Hillary. Barack's pledged delegate lead is dwarfed by his lack of support from Democrats and his weakness in so many states. The superdelegate "quickfix" to the McGovern problem has really turned this race into a nailbiter. Not to mention the screwup of Dean in two key states.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 26 April, 2008 17:48  

  • "Pledged delegate lead dwarfed by his lack of support with Dems" - put away the doobie. I believe he and her both have substantial Dem support and each have won closed primaries. Also his weakness in some states is mirrored by hers in others such as Oregon,m Washington and Wisconsin. All voted Dem the past 2 elections and collectively have many more EV's than the beloved FL or PA.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 26 April, 2008 18:22  

  • Since that is impossible now for either side the race is still completely up in the air.

    Completely? Hardly.

    Optimistic scenario for Clinton: assume an 8 point win for Obama in North Carolina and a tie in Indiana. Then assume a very unrealistic 60-40 split for Clinton the rest of the way (she's only gotten 60% once, in Arkansas, and she got 55% in PA which was the most favorable for her demographically of any state left).

    Then Obama would have 118 more pledged delegates and about 100 more total delegates (including presently committed superdelegates). With only about 300 uncommitted superdelegates left, they'd have to break 2:1 for Clinton for her to get the nomination.

    Decided? No. But "completely up in the air"? I don't think so. This isn't pro- or anti- one candidate or the other. The math is the math. Clinton could pull it out, but the odds are long.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 26 April, 2008 18:58  

  • The math no longer applies to the outcome because an 800 vote block was set aside to overturn this in favor of who's more electable in the summer. This was done intentionally to give the convention room to switch out the nominee. You guys may not like it but that's the way it is. He doesn't have enough support to ensure the nomination and neither does she. It all boils down to who can win and right now it favors her. What really could throw you guys is that this summer could produce a stalemate that gives us a compromise candidate, Edwards. Then your math really gets thrown out the window. Now there's a long shot I bet you could never put odds on. Gambling's not a sure bet no matter how good the odds are.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 26 April, 2008 19:43  

  • Obama has to be considered a heavy favorite to win the nomination. Opinions? I give him about an 85% chance of winning the nomination.

    By Anonymous Stat man, At 26 April, 2008 20:50  

  • You know what is really scary? The Democrats losing to McCain in November. If a elderly man who can't even comb his hair defeats an energetic young man or a woman with such important stature in one's party, The Democratic party will be no more.

    Scary!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 26 April, 2008 21:00  

  • The math no longer applies to the outcome because an 800 vote block was set aside to overturn this in favor of who's more electable in the summer.

    Yes, and almost 500 of that block has already committed to one candidate or the other, so there's only about 300 left. That's included in my analysis.

    It all boils down to who can win and right now it favors her.

    Why? National polls have them doing about equally against McCain. So I'd say right now neither has the better electability argument. If the argument is she just won PA, will that change if Obama wins NC as expected?

    The fact is that both candidates have won just about everywhere they were expected to win. There haven't been any significant upsets. There hasn't been any real "momentum" for either candidate; it's been demographics and scheduling more than anything else.

    What really could throw you guys is that this summer could produce a stalemate that gives us a compromise candidate, Edwards... Now there's a long shot I bet you could never put odds on.

    Well, you yourself say it's a long shot. There's no indication that the superdelegates are considering such a thing. So it's highly unlikely (much as I might like to see Edwards as the nominee).

    Gambling's not a sure bet no matter how good the odds are.

    I never wrote anything was a sure thing. I just wrote that given some extremely optimistic assumptions for Clinton, the remaining superdelegates would have to break 2:1 for her. There has been no challenge as to where the math might be in error.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 26 April, 2008 22:22  

  • 21 debates is enough.

    I have been watching this race since Clinton announced on January 20, 2007.

    By my count, and I have counted every earned pledged delegate, and more than once to check for correctness, it currently stands at:

    Obama: 1,523
    Clinton: 1,367

    Margin: Obama + 156
    (His margin was +168 before PA)

    If the last 9 races go as I currently project them, then Obama will win 202 PDs and Clinton will win 206 of the last 408 PDs, which means she will cut into his margin, after all is said and done and yet many many millions are spent, by only 4 additional PDs, thus bringing the total to:

    Obama: 1,725 PDs (52.3%)
    Clinton: 1,573 PDs (47.7%)

    Margin: Obama + 152 (+ 4.6%)

    Currently, Obama is behind Clinton by 22 Superdelegates:

    Obama: 237 SDs
    Clinton: 259 SDs.

    Assuming that no more SDs declare between now and June 3 (unlikely), then the grand total (estimated, but a damn good estimate) would be:

    Obama: 1,962
    Clinton: 1,832
    Margin: Obama +130 total delegates.
    And only 63 more SDs needed for the nomination.

    Clinton: 193 SDs needed for nomination.

    This means that of the 299 remaining unpledged SUPERdelegates, Clinton must win a margin of 194, which means she MUST ABSOLUTELY PICK UP 247 (82.6%) of the last 299 delegates, leaving Obama the remaining 52 delegates. 247-52=195.

    So, even if she wins 5 of the nine remaining races BIG - way above her margin average - and Obama only wins his four within his margin average- or even below his average, she is still behind him in the PDs come convention time.

    And then, in spite of being behind, she must sway 4/5 of the remaining Superdelegates, in spite of the fact that the majority of Supers in the last 60 who have declared, have declared for Obama.

    So, the math is much, much more insurmountable than most people realize.

    It is mathematically possible. It is statistically impossible.

    And the whole PV argument? Well, having just won her biggest catch of PV margin in PA, she is still 500,000 behind Obama, unless you of course use the Clinton "new-math" of suddenly adding FL and MI (which are disqualified, to remind) and suddenly cut out the caucus PV (oh, how very democratic). But this cut into Obama's PV margin will be lost when he landslides in NC in 9 days from today, and most likely with a much higher margin, and therefore a large PV margin than she earned in PA.

    This is not a partisan viewpoint on my part, it is simply the math. Were the names changed and Clinton was this far in front, then I would be writing the same posting, with the names changed.

    Oh, and btw, out of 46 contests, I personally have pegged 43 of them within 0.5% of the actual results, so I am confident that these numbers pretty close to reality come convention time, not accounting for Superdelegates that will declare between now and then. And when this is all over and done with, I am going to repost this post.

    Clinton knows these numbers. She really should pull out now.

    By Blogger Mark, At 27 April, 2008 05:16  

  • Superdelegates are technically not committed until the convention. They can state their support but that isn't in any way binding. Pledged delegates aren't bound to vote for who won them either. So banking on them right now is foolish. All you can do is hope that Obama can sustain enough popular support until then. "Running out the clock" isn't very re-assuring.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 27 April, 2008 07:36  

  • I agree with dsimon and mark except for one thing. PA was not the most favorable of the remaining states for Clinton demographically. She will win by more than 20% in WV and Kentucky. Obama will get the nomination and deserve it but I wanted to correct what I perceive to be an error. It will still leave Obama more than 100 delegates ahead.

    When certain people keep saying she has won the big states (excluding IL, GA and probably NC) they forget that the delegate allocation for big democratic states is much more than their populations would account for.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 27 April, 2008 07:39  

  • Look at a population cartogram and you'll see that with the exception of Ill. the blues are predominantly Clinton's. It isn't even close. Ga and NC are going red. Obama has less chance than McGovern did and everybody that matters can see it. It's a done deal that nominating Barack elects McCain. The McGovern debacle is what made the superdelegate system neecessary. Now it's time we put it into play.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 27 April, 2008 07:53  

  • What I find interesting is how many people get worked up on the potential for some Democratic voters not to vote for the eventual nominee. This is not a new phenomenon, most elections roughly 5-10% of GOP voters vote for the Dem nominee and 5-10% of Democratic voters vote for the GOP nominee.

    This is because you usually vote for the person not the party in GE. The President does not have that much power. Congress and state governments do lot more that effect peoples lives directly.

    The one area the President has large powers is in foreign policy/war. I find it ironic that Clinton voted to support the war (like most Democrats in Congress) so as not to be seen as weak and soft on national defense. Most people expected the war would be successful and over quickly. She was already planning on running in 2008 and she wanted to position herself as a moderate. A reasonable strategy - but events come into play which has upended that. Also she expected no serious opposition and the base to be solidly behind her. Well we know how that turned out.

    By Anonymous Guy, At 27 April, 2008 08:06  

  • Anon - Obama does better than Clinton in Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and other mid sized states. Drop the obsession with the top 10 - you don`t get 270 with only the 10 largest states.

    Please be factual and unbiased. Obama dopes better in some blue states and she does better in other blue states. The main point is when it comes to November people will look at the differences in policies and the difference between Clinton/Obama and McCain is large. The difference between Clinton and Obama is small. Therefore most (not all) will vote for the Democrat.

    It is like would you prefer a Porsche or a Ferrari. You may really want a Ferrari but in the end it isn`t available, you would still be happy with the Porsche. Especially if the other option was a Kia (McCain?).

    By Anonymous Guy, At 27 April, 2008 08:10  

  • Is this fellow Mark in the Obama campaign? Overblown and pedantic, so he must be part of the Obama campaign. Word for you Mark, nobody, but I mean, noooobody cares about your projections. Please, spare us! We have enough irritating idiotic babble from the profesional pundits to have to deal with the raving lunacy of the amateurs!!

    By Anonymous Robert, At 27 April, 2008 08:37  

  • No Democratic nominee will win without carrying MA,NY,NJ,PA. Sorry guy but McCain will win those states and every other red state and sweep this election.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 27 April, 2008 08:42  

  • "Obama dopes better" is very funny. I sure he rolls a better fatty!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 27 April, 2008 09:15  

  • robert wrote: "Is this fellow Mark in the Obama campaign? Overblown and pedantic, so he must be part of the Obama campaign. Word for you Mark, nobody, but I mean, noooobody cares about your projections"

    NO, I am not in the Obama campaign and I started, as a matter of fact, as a Clinton supporter, also financially.

    Not only that, I did not make up the numbers, I am only presenting them exactly as they are. I am not the one who caused virtually all of the deep south to go for Obama with well over 60% or the western caucus states with over 70% nor am I responsible for keeping Clinton's win in CA under 8 points. She didn't even break over 57% in her own home state of NY! Those voters out there did those things, not I.

    You can't get blood out of a turnip. And Clinton is gnawing on a big turnip.

    And as to whether or not you care for my predictions, I couldn't give a shit. If you don't like what you read, then please crawl back in your cave and finish your rock drawings. At least I can back my predictions up with empirical data. You? Come, Robert, put your facts on the table. Let's see them. Then we'll see who's pedantic.

    Typical Clinton fans - insulting and lacking in fact.

    And Mike: I agree with you. In my simulation of what is to come, she wins KY and WV with a 30% margin (65-35), also PR. But it won't be enough, because after IN an NC there will only be 189 PDs to fight over and more than likely Obama will be up to at least +170 again. We can let Robert figure out what a percent margin 170 of 189 tallies up to. He just needs to scratch the equation into the rock wall of his cave.

    By Blogger Mark, At 27 April, 2008 10:02  

  • Mark - I agree with your overall projections. I just wanted to set the scene for a large Obama loss in some small red states (which don`t usually count according to Clinton).

    By Anonymous Mike, At 27 April, 2008 10:42  

  • It takes a pretty backward looking rigid mental state to completely ignore the fact that Obama can't win and that superdelegates have an obligation to award the nomination to the most electable candidate. Mark you are obviously the "cave man" in the room. Stick to your "pedantic" rhetoric about how Obama can somehow miraculously win the GE. Your retorts only reinforce the basis of Robert's post. 35% of Democrats don't like Obama and it's growing daily. Get over it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 27 April, 2008 10:45  

  • Dr Rice of Obama's foreign policy tean and Dr. Rice of Bush's have some real mental issues in common! Anybody that just saw that confrontation on CNN with Rubin will never again give creedence to anything that woman puts forward. What stupidity. How low do you people have to sink before your base wakes up and realizes they're doomed? Is it going to take Colin Powell waving around his vial of fake anthrax?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 27 April, 2008 11:55  

  • Anon 8:42 -- No Republican can win without GA, LA, TN, UT, etc, and since McCain lost those states in the primary he'll -obviously- lose them in November, right?

    For that matter, neither Obama nor McCain won MA, MI, WV (probably), AR, NV....so who the hell wins those states? Ralph Nader?

    By Anonymous Chicago Joe, At 27 April, 2008 12:01  

  • Dear Mark, Thanks for your analysis. As usual your numbers are correct, but it's too bad the media and some posters can't accept reality(like Bush).Maybe that's way we have Bush?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 27 April, 2008 13:16  

  • The reality is that Obama is a losing candidate, and the media knows it. You people were the ones that allowed the media to make you think that Obama could actually win. Now they report reality and you don't like them anymore? Honeymoon over? Mark's numbers may be correct but his analysis is very poor. Obama will turn solidly blue states red if nominated and will fail to turn red states blue. I think Taniel has pointed that out repeatedly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 27 April, 2008 13:23  

  • Ah, all of these "anonymous" writers without enough balls to put their identity of their email addresses out there. No, instead, they just spread propaganda about blue and red, having completely forgotten that our union is much more purple than it is blue or red.

    And polls before labor day, as far as the GE is concerned, are practically worthless.

    There is no way to correspond a primary run to the GE run. Nice try, though.

    One thing we do know for sure: Hillary Clinton would be the most unifying factor the republican party has ever known. Want to keep republicans from sitting this one out and want them to come out in numbers that will make the Bush re-election in 2004 look like child's play? Then nominate Clinton.

    Looky, looky, I can play the propaganda game, too...

    All three of these candidates have flaws, all three of them have achilles heels, and all three of them have the ability to win big or lose big in November.

    By Blogger Mark, At 27 April, 2008 17:17  

  • Ah, all of these "anonymous" writers without enough balls to put their identity of their email addresses out there.

    Mark, I suspect it's one poster who posts repeatedly. He/she is immune to any facts or reason that conflicts with the chances of his/her candidate (for instance, using primary results to claim Obama won't carry NY or MA when recent polls show him comfortably ahead of McCain in those states), and rarely backs up assertions with data or sound argument.

    Trust me, you're better of ignoring those posts. Don't get drawn in.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 27 April, 2008 20:25  

  • I agree with dsimon and mark except for one thing. PA was not the most favorable of the remaining states for Clinton demographically. She will win by more than 20% in WV and Kentucky.

    Perhaps. I thought PA had the second oldest population of any state and the oldest of any state left, plus a fairly low percentage of college graduates compared to national levels, but perhaps other factors swing KT and WV more in her favor. So I'll confess I didn't do all the homework here.

    Still, not too many delegates left, so 60% in those states still won't help her much. She really needed 60% in PA where more delegates were available. The math at this point is inexorable.

    She can hope already-committed superdelegates change their minds, but it's unlikely. You'd think they would have thought pretty hard before announcing publicly, especially the ones who committed later on in the process--who are mostly Obama supporters.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 27 April, 2008 20:30  

  • dsimon - I completely agree that WV and KT do not have many delegates so even if she wins very big say 70-30 it will not do much good. However if turnout is good (unknown at this point) it will make a difference to the PV. Although PV is an unofficial metric it does carry some weight.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 27 April, 2008 20:45  

  • Although PV is an unofficial metric it does carry some weight.

    Aside from the nice-sounding name, I don't know why it should carry any weight. Would any reasonable candidate spend time and resources for votes that did not lead to more pledged delegates? If not, then the contest has always been about delegates, not some overall popular vote. And so it would be unjust to judge the candidates by a metric that was never the organizing principle of the candidates' campaigns.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 28 April, 2008 10:19  

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