Breaking It Down

I’ve updated the delegate scorecard as of 10:50 p.m. California time. I’ve also broken out the delegates awarded to each candidate by pledged and unpledged delegates — if a candidate has 100 pledged delegates, and 25 other delegates who cannot be bound to vote one way or the other but who have made public or other announcements of how they will vote, those are now broken down. On my chart, that would appear as: “100+25” and should be read as 125 delegates. Sorry to make you do math.

So far, it looks like in terms of elected delegates, Clinton and Obama are running very close to even. Clinton has an advantage with the unpledged delegates, though, which makes sense — she and Bill have a lot more favors they can call in so of course there is a Clinton advantage for the inside game. But it’s less overwhelming an advantage than one might think. Clinton is winning outright in many states, typically by margins of five to ten percent. Thanks to the Democrats’ proportional primary rules, this means that Obama will stay competitive after tonight, with a realistic chance of winning, although the odds are longer on him than they would have been had he won more of the big states outright.

Still, for the first time, the “superdelegates” may be the deciding factor in the Democratic race — unelected delegates whose existence is expressly intended to reflect the preferences of the existing party elites. It would be bad for the Democrats if Clinton were picked despite Obama getting more elected delegates, and I suspect a lot of Democratic leaders are smart enough to figure that out all on their own.

On the Republican side, the numbers at present do not accurately reflect the beating Mitt Romney is taking tonight. He’s won in Massachusetts, but not by a very convincing margin. He’s won in Mormon-rich states like Utah and Montana, but aside from that he’s showing rather poorly. Very few delegates from California are included in the count as of 10:50 tonight, but with about 20% of the votes counted, it doesn’t look like there’s a single county or other significant geographic area where Romney will be taking a plurality. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of California’s delegates wind up pledged to McCain.

McCain has fared much more poorly in the South — but again, so has Romney. That’s where Huckabee’s votes are coming from, almost exclusively. I think it’s more a Southern thing than a religious thing. As I wrote earlier, it looks to me like the evangelical Republicans have figured out that Huckabee shouldn’t get their vote automatically just because he was a Baptist preacher; he has to earn their votes like any other politician, and they are willing to look past Romney’s Mormon faith to see whether he has the right kinds of policies and personality for them. Many have decided that Romney is their guy. Many have decided not. Either way, that’s the result of the candidate earning the votes, or not, which is democracy in action. Gratifying.

Final results will have to wait until morning (I’ll update the charts again at that time, as more information will be known) but it looks to me that my prediction from this morning will more or less work out. McCain is dominating the field and Obama is really making a game out of it for Clinton. It was supposed to be the other way around — just three weeks ago, people were still discussing a four- or five-way brokered Republican convention and the Democrats were going to have things all sewn up after February 5. But it’s looking more like it’ll be the Democrats who go into convention without the nomination clinched by anyone and the party insiders making deals in smoke-filled rooms, while John McCain will get to begin the process of — appealing to his own party’s base while preserving the appeal to independent and crossover voters that has proven so powerful for him this cycle.

I’ve been following politics since before I could vote. I’ve never seen an election this interesting, or this much fun.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.