If you believe what you see in the press, you’d think Hillary Clinton handed Barack Obama his ass in Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas Tuesday. Nothing of the sort happened. In Ohio, Clinton got 71 delegates and Obama got 59. In Little Rhody, it was 13 Clinton delegates to 8 for Obama. In Texas, it was 65 for Clinton and 61 for Obama. A squeaker. And in Vermont, Obama won, and for his victory, he got 9 delegates to Clinton’s six. The result of this risorgiomento is that Clinton has won a net gain of seventeen delegates out of a total of 292. As comebacks go, this is better than a photo finish, but not much.
What really happened was that any possibility of the Democratic convention not being brokered has effectively evaporated. CNN has a graphical toy for wargaming out the remaining delegates at stake. Useful. One of the things it shows is that if Obama gets 11 more delegates, Clinton will be mathematically excluded from clinching the nomination before the convention – she will need superdelegates to get there.
There are only two significant primaries contests left, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. So one analyst is convinced that Clinton needs 23-point margins of victory from here on out to stay viable — not because she’s that far behind, but because there is so little left up for grabs that the margins will need to be that huge for a difference to be made. Well, that isn’t going to happen.
It’s a tough road for Obama to get there without superdelegates also. By CNN’s math, even if he gets something like 75% of the vote in the remaining twelve primaries and caucuses, he would still be about fifty delegates short of clinching the victory. And that isn’t going to happen either.
Obama’s numbers have been pretty good, but not that good. Neither have Clinton’s. So unless one of them just plain throws in the towel – and by now, it’s apparent that neither of them will – this will be the first brokered major-party political convention in two generations.
Even if Clinton succeeds in getting Michigan and Florida delegates recognized, that still wouldn’t be enough to clinch it, and that would have to be done on the convention floor anyway. It would help her out, though – and if she got that done, then that would indicate that her inside game was still good enough that she’d probably have gotten enough superdelegates anyway.
The biggest part of the problem, of course, is that the Democrats have adopted a rule that virtually guarantees that two more or less equally-popular candidates are going to play out to a stalemate. Particularly if the eventual margin of victory for the nominee is within the number of delegates that would have gone to Florida and Michigan, this will be the least democratic Democratic election anyone can remember.