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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Clinton's "Obama Theory"

This is really a minor point, but what are blogs for if not hand wringing over minor points? Ever since mid February, when it became clear that Obama's lead amongst pledged delegates was becoming too large for Clinton to overcome, there has been quite a lot of talk about the possibility of super delegates coming down decisively for Clinton, and giving her the nomination.

Since having the supers overturn the actual vote totals would be pretty damaging, there has been a lot of pressure, particularly from Obama supporters, on super delegates to affirm the popular vote, or at least affirm the popular will according to how their state voted.

Which leads me to one of biggest pet peeves these last couple months. Whenever a super delegate from a state that voted for Clinton endorses Obama, a bunch of Hillary supporters start clucking about how hypocritical they are, or that they should respect the will of their states voters. It's a talking point I've heard quite a bit for quite a while now, and with the Richardson endorsement it popped up again because New Mexico went for Clinton.

Jane Hamsher, who I otherwise enjoy reading, gave this obtuse sentiment voice last week with a piece for the Huffington Post. It was a rather insulting piece, accusing Richardson of "political opportunism" (a foolish claim, as his endorsement would have been much more valuable before Texas) and talking out of both sides of his mouth.

I have long thought that this argument was self-evidently absurd, but since not everyone's as clever as I am, let me explain. Richardson, and other advocates of the "vote-with-your-state" idea, want ALL super delegates to honor the will of their states. Does Hamsher really believe that if all the other superdelegates signed a pledge to do that that he wouldn't as well? Of course not! Richardson, and every other superdelegate, won't unilaterally disarm, however. Is Hamsher advocating that superdelegates vote as they wish, unless they are Obama supporters, then they have to vote with their state? I should hope she isn't, and yet, it's effectively what she is asking of Richardson.

Now, up until now, when I heard people saying this I didn't make a fuss, and just chalked it up to a zealous defense of their candidate. Sure, when I heard bloggers write it and think they had discovered a clever nut I just made a note to take them less seriously in the future (See: Armando; Armstrong, Jerome; Marsh, Taylor). On Monday, however, I read that Clinton had actually dismissed Richardson's endorsement by making precisely this argument, in a meeting with the Daily News editorial board. She called it the "Obama Theory."

This all made me curious as to how the superdelegates would breakdown if they all did abide by what Clinton dismissively called the "Obama Theory." I took the superdelegate list from Wikipedia, so caveat emptor, but it jived with the DemConWatch blog and the Politico's.

There are a number of ways to run the numbers, so I present three scenerios. The first, is for only states that have already voted, the second is for all the states, with upcoming states allocated according toBowers' projection, and the third is the most generous scenario for Clinton, using Bowers' projections again, but giving her wins in Indiana, Oregon, and North Carolina.

These numbers are if all superdelegates vote according to how their state voted, regardless of the position of the superdelegate. That means that Governers, DNC members, and Congressman vote according to their state. If you wanted to dice it up finer, and count them by there precise constituencies (ie states for governers, districts for representatives, etc) be my guest, but I certainly don't have that kind of time. Here is how it breaks down:

States that have already voted316297Obama by 19
All states, likely projection365360Obama by 5
All states, Clinton wins IN, OR, and NC 324401Clinton by 77

So, considering that Obama will be going into the convention with a 100+ pledged delegate lead, he will still win the nomination under Clinton's "Obama Theory."

The next time someone chides John Kerry or Ted Kennedy for endorsing Obama, ask them if they really want all the superdelegates to embrace this option.

Click "There's more..." for the rest of the post, and the breakdown of superdelegates by states won.