Pledged delegate breakdown and superdelegate flow: Obama's math

Hillary Clinton is continuing her campaign despite the setbacks of May 6th and continuing to make her case to superdelegates. However decided the Democratic race now looks and however much Obama has now turned to the general election, this means that it remains important to keep a tab on the the pledged delegate breakdown and on superdelegate endorsements. After all, math will be the main factor that will force an end to this race sooner or later.

The first change to today's totals concerns a state that voted on February 5th: Colorado's totals have been modified from a 35-20 breakdown in favor of Obama to 36-19 -- a reminder of how much the caucus states contributed to Clinton's collapse. Consider that just in the 6 caucuses held on February 5th Obama amassed a lead of 80 delegates (almost half of his current lead) a clear indication of how huge a tactical mistake Clinton's campaign committed. The two other updates to the pledged delegate count concern the two states that voted last Tuesday -- Indiana and North Carolina.

North Carolina primary: Obama 56%-Clinton 42%

  • Obama: 66 delegates
  • Clinton: 49
Indiana primary: Clinton 51%-Obama 49%

  • Clinton: 38 delegates
  • Obama: 34
This brings us to the following total:

  • Obama: 1591.5 delegates
  • Clinton: 1425.5
  • Remaining: 217
That's a differential of 166 which means that Clinton has to win 88% of the remaining pledged delegates to take the lead. Obama just has to get to the viability threshold of 15% in the remaining districts to hold on to his pledged delegate lead... That pretty much explains why even the Clinton campaign never mentions the possibility of taking the lead in pledged delegate anymore though they did venture today that they expected to be with 100 pledged delegates of Obama by June 3rd. For that to happen, Clinton would need to win 65% of remaining delegates -- 142 to his 75. This does not take into account Florida and Michigan despite many signs pointing to the possibility of some kind of resolution that would allow Clinton to pick up more delegates than Obama in those states; this would make the path to that 100 delegate deficit more plausible.

Meanwhile, the superdelegate flow continues as Obama solidifies his newly acquired lead among superdelegates. Obama got 6 new endorsements today (adding to yesterday's 8) while Clinton picked up 2 and lost 1:

  • Endorsing Obama were Arizona Rep. Harry Mitchell, Virginia's Joe Johnson, Ohio add-on Dave Regan, Utah add-on Kristi Cumming and two Virgin Islands supers, Kevin Rodriguez and Carol Burke. Rodriguez had previously endorsed Clinton, so he represents a net gain of 2 for Obama.
  • Endorsing Clinton were Massachusetts add-on Arthur Powell and Texas Rep. Ciro Rodriguez.
This means that 17 superdelegates have committed to a candidate in the space of 2 days, a dramatic quickening of the endorsement pace that bodes well for Obama's hopes of wrapping this up sooner rather than later. There are about 250 superdelegates who remain uncommitted and Clinton should be winning those about 4:1 to have a path to the nomination. That today's ratio is 6:1 in favor of Obama confirms that the Illinois Senator is rapidly approaching 2,024.

A new graphic on the New York Times' website tells the story of Obama's dramatic comeback among superdelegates since March 4th, as even Clinton's Ohio and Pennsylvania survivals did not allow her to reverse Obama's momentum among supers (Note: The graph looks particularly dramatic because the origin point is 199 delegates for Obama, not 0):



  • "Obama just has to get to the viability threshold of 15% in the remaining districts to hold on to his pledged delegate lead."

    Obama needs 75% of the remaining pledged delegates to clinch the nomination. That will be hard, but not impossible, especially if Hillary Clinton's supporters are deflated and Obama's are invigorated. After all, it's a lot more likely someone will vote in an election that is almost meaningless if they are voting for the winner.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 11 May, 2008 04:00  

  • Taniel - I think you have put the wrong %'s for Indiana - it was 50.5 to 49.5 not 55.45 to 44.55

    By Anonymous Mike, At 11 May, 2008 06:40  

  • It is not illegitimate for Obama to win with the help of SD's - they make up 20% of the total and Mondale needed them against Hart.
    Even though his victories in the caucus sates were lopsided he achieved similar percentages in "real" primaries such as VA, MD, GA, IL so getting a 2:1 margin is not new to Obama.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 11 May, 2008 06:44  

  • The NY Times chart is great. Something similar on demconwatch. What I find striking is that in the weeks between Her "great" PA win and NC/IN Obama netted 8more than she did (2:1 margin). Also in the two weeks before PA he netted more than she did too.
    It clearly shows that the majority of the SD's will go with Obama. He will have the majority of PDs, SDs, PV and states. He will also have plenty of money against the GOP - a novelty for the Dems.
    This will be over June 4th since all the primaries are then done and MI/FL will be sorted out on 31st May - two of her rationales for staying in will have gone (letting MI/FL vote and letting all the remaining states vote).
    I bet if she was leading she would not be that concerned about letting the other remaining states vote.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 11 May, 2008 06:49  

  • Even if you take all the margins he ran up in the caucus states and included FL and MI flawed votes Obama would still have a pledged delegate lead. This against the inevitable candidate who has a super spouse that should help raise money, get free press etc.

    Also nobody doubts Obama would have won the caucus states even if they were primaries. Maybe by not as much but he would have won so you cannot take 80 off his PD lead.

    By Anonymous Guy, At 11 May, 2008 07:03  

  • Obama needs 75% of the remaining pledged delegates to clinch the nomination. That will be hard, but not impossible, especially if Hillary Clinton's supporters are deflated and Obama's are invigorated.

    Though I'd like to share that outlook, I think it's not just hard; it's too hard. I don't think Obama has any reasonable chance of getting anywhere close to Clinton in WV, KY, or PR, much less the 75% threshold.

    But even under a very optimistic Clinton scenario--she gets 70% in WV, KY, and PR, and splits the rest--she'd need 72% of the remaining superdelegates, and that looks just about as unlikely.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 11 May, 2008 11:18  

  • It's all going to come down to electability in the GE. If Obama doesn't concede to accepting Hillary's demands, she will not drop out. That means Obama has to pull off a clear lead in the polling over McCain all the way through to August. Remember there's no such thing as a sure bet with the delegates. They can flip at any time. Edwards still hasn't dropped out either you know. He's only "suspended" his campaign. Until Obama chooses to unify instead of divide, he is not assured of anything.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11 May, 2008 12:18  

  • "Unify instead of divide" - any evidence that he divides people? Clinton is the one sub dividing the electorate and crowing about how she has some groups but then forgets that she misses out on other groups that are just as important for a Dem.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 11 May, 2008 13:31  

  • Anon 12:18, WHAT??!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11 May, 2008 13:33  

  • It's all going to come down to electability in the GE.

    And poll after poll shows Obama doing about as well as Clinton in head-to-head match-ups against McCain. What else is electability about, if not that?

    By Blogger dsimon, At 11 May, 2008 15:34  

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