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Superdelegate race: latest tallies and what’s ahead

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton celebrated her victory in the Pennsylvania primary by announcing a new superdelegate in her camp. U.S. Rep. (and superdelegate) John Tanner of Tennessee said he would support her for the Dem nomination.

Sen. Barack Obama celebrated his loss in the primary by announcing the support of two new superdelegates. Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry (yes, Oklahoma is another of those very red states that has a Dem guv) and Democratic National Committee member Audra Ostergaard of Nebraska are the new Obamians.

Since I last updated you on the superdelegate race, Clinton has picked up 11 new superdelegate endorsements (according to the very useful and delegate-obsessed demconwatch tally)  and Obama has picked up 12. This whittles Clinton’s lead in the superdelegate portion of the race down to 23 with the count now 256-233 and 305 superdelegates still uncommitted (including some who have not been named yet).

Demconwatch also projects that of the 158 pledged delegates to be allotted from the Pennsylvania vote, Clinton will receive 83, Obama 73, with two still to be determined. Based on those already projected, that’s a 53-47 percent split of the delegates, which almost matches the 54.6 percent of the popular vote Clinton received. (Note to the truly fussy, Clinton’s margin, generally described as 10 points, turned out in the final tally to be 9.2 percentage points.)

Good news, bad news

There’s a series of good news-bad news jokes for Clinton in these developments. Since February 10, when Clinton led by almost 100 in the superdelegate race, Obama has beaten her almost every week. If she has fought him to almost a draw over the last two weeks, she has stopped the hemorrhage. That’s the good news. The bad news is that she can’t afford to fight him to almost a draw, or to a draw or even beat him by a bit. Her only hope of gaining the nomination is to win a large majority of the remaining superdelegates. And The New York Times reports that Obama has lined up several endorsements to be announced over the next several days, including several superdelegates. We’ll see if the Obamians can deliver on that and whether Clinton can match or exceed him in new endorsements.

If Clinton’s delegate haul from Tuesday is roughly equal to her portion of the popular vote, that would be good news because at least she avoided the fate she has suffered in some states (most famously Texas) in which she won the popular vote but had little or nothing to show for it in delegate counts.

But it’s also very bad news. Assuming that she gets both of the last two Pennsylvania delegates, that would mean she netted a 12-delegate pickup. If winning the largest remaining state by a truly impressive 9.2 percentage points of the popular vote nets her only 12 delegates, and she trails by 130 overall delegates, with nine contests still to come, including some very small states and territories (next up is the smallest, Guam, with four delegates at stake) and some states that Obama is expected to win (the biggest remaining prize is North Carolina, with 115 delegates, where Obama holds a double-digit lead in most recent polls), it borders on impossible to see how Clinton overtakes Obama unless she wins 75 or 80 percent of the remaining superdelegates.

In his latest National Journal column titled “Hillary’s Political Purgatory,” the excellent Charlie Cook captures the whole good news/bad news joke nicely and thusly:

“The good news for Hillary Rodham Clinton is that she’s winning a lot of battles. The bad news is that the war is pretty much lost.”

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