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Superdelegates swing more slowly, but still swing toward Obama

Since Hillary Clinton’s big Ohio-Texas day last Tuesday, 13 formerly uncommitted Dem superdelegates have announced their intentions. They’ve broken 8-5 for Barack Obama, according to delegate-obsessed and very helpful DemConWatch Superdelegate Tracker.

Heading into the Ohio-Texas-Vermont-Rhode Island, Obama was coming off a 10-day stretch of outgaining Clinton by 23-4.

So, what have we learned? The rush of superdelegates to Obama has slowed considerably, which is good news for Clinton. But hasn’t stopped, which is better news for Obama.

Clinton’s lead among publicly committed superdelegates, which stood at 97 on Feb. 10 (224-127) is now down to its lowest level ever of 39 (244-205). And the DemConWatch graph of Clinton’s shrinking superdel lead has not changed direction and barely changed slope.

Here‘s the graph.

Post-Ohio and Texas, while the media narrative has shifted in Clinton’s direction (pre-Ohio Texas the narrative was all about her being forced from the contest), Obama has nonetheless added five to his overall delegate lead: three from his 8-5 edge in new superdels, two from his win Saturday in the Wyoming caucuses (he won 61-38 percent in caucus attendees, but only 7-5 in new pledged delegates).

As you have probably learned, Clinton’s big wins in three of the four March 5 primaries netted her just 10 delegates (those proportional rules really are a momentum killer). And unless the polls are further off than they have been yet this crazy year, Obama will gain a couple more pledged delegates based on today’s Mississippi primary (33 pledged delegates are at stake; the most recent poll I can find has Obama leading 54-37).

So what else have we learned?

The superdelegates will, as a matter of math, decide the nomination.

Many of the superdelegates would rather not have this responsibility, but they’re stuck with it.

The most comfortable position for the nervous superdelegates would be to ratify the decision of the majority of the non-super (mortal?) delegates who have been and will be chosen on the basis of the primaries and caucuses.

Clinton’s strong showing last Tuesday did little to solve her biggest problem, which is Obama’s almost insurmountable lead among pledged delegates. As things stand now (this is according to the Real Clear Politics delegate count) Obama is ahead by 119 in the total delegate race and by 155 among pledged delegates. Clinton would need 17 more delegate victories the size of Ohio to make that up. There are not 17 Ohios out there no matter what is decided about Florida and Michigan.

Short of overtaking Obama in the race for pledged delegates, the Clinton team is reduced to jawboning the superdelegates, trying to give them a convincing reason to support a candidate who finished second in the combined primary and caucus campaign. Her team has developed several arguments designed to do that, but there are logic or evidence problems with most of them, which I will discuss in a future post. So far, those arguments and her showing last Tuesday have slowed but not stopped the drip, drip, drip of superdelegates toward Obama. Every week that that continues causes Clinton’s chances to decline further.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by richard siegel on 03/11/2008 - 09:48 pm.

    Gov Corzine of New Jersey, said that as a super delegate, he would most likely vote for the person with most popular votes. He would not simply vote for the winner of the NJ primary (hardballl 3/10/08) That seems to be a ver fair way to decide if both are still active candidates going into the convention.

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