Could Obama Pass 2025 Before May 31?
by Todd Beeton, Wed May 14, 2008 at 11:53:24 AM EDT
As DemConWatch rightly points out, the goal posts for what constitutes a win have been moving, but legitimately so, not just by the shear force of will of a campaign, as the number of total delegates has fluctuated over the past few months. As of last night, with Travis Childers's MS-01 win, a new superdelegate was added to the mix, bringing the total delegate universe up to 4049, which means the candidates need 2025 to win (when Donna Edwards officially wins her MD-04 seat on June 14, that number will bump up to 2025.5.)
In all likelihood, the number of delegates needed to win will once again bump up on May 31 when the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meets to deal with the seating of the Michigan and Florida delegations. Yet until then, it's hard to argue the number is anything but 2025.
Now, both campaigns have been a bit disingenuous when it's come to what it takes to declare victory. Team Obama has been spreading the idea that because they'll get to a majority of pledged delegates by May 20 (1627 of the current 3,253 pledged delegates currently in play), that constitutes victory. Well, unfortunately, that's a fake measure and will likely be moot as of May 31 when the entire pledged delegate universe, and hence the number needed to achieve a majority, likely shifts once at least part of the Michigan and Florida delegations are ratified. There's nothing lamer than declaring victory one day only to have to retract it 11 days later.
The Clinton campaign though continues to insist that the magic number of total delegates to win is 2209, which is 2025 plus all of Michigan and Florida's pledged and superdelegates. This presumes that the DNC RBC will reinstate 100% of Michigan's and Florida's delegates, which just simply isn't either a terribly likely scenario (one suspects the committee will keep some punishment in tact, perhaps docking them half their pledged delegates...) nor is it technically operative prior to the 31st.
Does any of this really matter since Hillary Clinton has said she's in it through June 3rd anyway? Last night on Larry King, Obama booster Ed Schulz suggested the one scenario in which it could matter: if Barack Obama reaches 2025 before May 31. But is that likely to happen?
After last night's contests and any pledged supers announced today, the delegate count according to DemConWatch's running tally is Obama 1885, Clinton 1717. There are only two contests left between now and May 31, Kentucky and Oregon on May 20. After allocating pledged delegates from those primaries according to the Obama projection spreadsheet, as of May 20 the total delegate counts will be up to Obama 1936, Clinton 1769. Hence Obama would need 89 superdelegates to declare for him in the next 16 days to be able to declare a 2025 victory prior to May 31. Could it happen? Well, it's possible but at a rate of more than 5 supers a day between now and then, it doesn't seem terribly likely, especially after Clinton's huge win last night with another one on the way next Tuesday.
At this point, it just doesn't make sense for supers to force a showdown over whether victory has been achieved, which is what allowing Obama to reach the 2025 threshold before Michigan and Florida are settled would essentially do. Also, no doubt part of why the DNC is even hearing the cases of MI & FL prior to the end of voting is to make MI & FL feel that they were a part of the process, which is arguably important psychologically for voters in those states. Do supers really want to derail that? So, as of now, I have to say, while for the next few weeks we're going to have to listen to both campaigns spin what constitutes victory, I doubt we're going to see the rate of superdelegate declaration for Obama that would be required to force a real showdown between Clinton and Obama prior to May 31. Of course, I've been wrong before...
Update [2008-5-14 16:0:27 by Todd Beeton]:Per Ben Smith, Howard Wolfson said today that Childers's win bumps the total delegates needed to win up to 2210.
Update [2008-5-14 16:44:55 by Todd Beeton]:Via e-mail, with the endorsement today of Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan, the Obama campaign has their total superdelegate count at 288.5, making the number needed to reach 2025 down to 134.5. By my count, approximately 80 of those would need to be supers to reach 2025 before May 31.