Delegate math continues to be Hillary Rodham Clinton’s nemesis. And what was once her strength — the superdelegate count — is now her weakness. Clinton is universally expected to win big in West Virginia today. The latest West Virginia poll listed on pollster.com has her ahead by a mind-boggling 60-24 percent. If she is of a mind to say so tonight, she can certainly claim that this says something powerful about her appeal (the competing prediction is that she will seize the moment of triumph to bow out). But here’s why pretty much no victory tonight, no matter how convincing, can revive her chances much:
Since the last primary, a week ago when Barack Obama’s big win in North Carolina and her narrow win in Indiana compelled the commentariat to acknowledge that the outcome of the nominations was no longer in doubt, Obama has gained 25 new superdelegate commitments (according, as usual in these parts, to the tally maintained by DemConWatch).
During the same week, Clinton has picked up a net (when you subtract for those who formerly committed to her but switched last week to Obama) of one superdelegate.
West Virginia has just 28 pledged delegates, who will be awarded on a proportional basis after tonight’s counting. So here’s the rub: Even if she were to win the one and only primary of the week by a mind-boggling 80-20 margin, she would still have lost ground for the week on the ultimate scorecard, which is total delegates gained.
Heading into West Virginia, Obama stands 36 delegates short of locking up a majority of the pledged delegates. He won’t win many tonight, but next Tuesday come Kentucky (with 51 delegates and Clinton holding a very substantial lead in polls) and Oregon (with 52 pledged delegates at stake and Obama expected to win a majority). It seems pretty dang likely that a week from tonight Obama will lock up the majority of pledged delegates, gaining what some consider an important new argument to make that the remaining uncommitted superdels should get off the fence and end the contest.
A small but potentially influential group of superdelegates, sometimes called the “Pelosi Club” because they have endorsed an idea put forth by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have announced that they plan to support whoever wins the majority of the pledged delegates. There are just nine Pelosi Club members, including the speaker, her daughter Christine and former President Jimmy Carter.
We haven’t had much of a discussion thread on the subject, so before it disappears from view, let me pose the question to MinnPost readers: If you were a superdelegate, let’s say a Democratic member of Congress, would you base your support primarily on:
which candidate carried your district in a primary or caucus;
carried your state;
agreed with you the most on the issues;
you believed would be the stronger general election candidate; or
you believed would be the best president.
Tuesday morning update: As the polls were opening in West Virginia, the Obama campaign rolled out two more superdelegate endorsements, from U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Just to nail down the point from above, that means that Clinton would have to take the West Virginia pledged delegates by 28-0 to win the week.
And p.s.: U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said two things on MPR this morning relative to his role as Minnesota’s last uncommitted superdelegate:
Thing 1. The fact that Obama carried his district in the Minnesota caucuses would carry great weight in his deliberations when he gets around to thinking about endorsing.
Thing 2. He doesn’t think there should be any superdelegates.
Please feel free to add Peterson’s thing 2 to the items for discussion. Should there be superdelegates?