Friday, March 07, 2008
BTW, Obama's Still Winning.
Well, there's no question that Tuesday night's results were a little disappointing, as Obama "lost" the Ohio and Texas primaries, though not the TX caucuses. It's disappointing mostly because it gives the Clinton campaign and the media the opportunity to exaggerate the significance of these "victories" and to give her an excuse not to exit the race. I use quotations because Obama more than held his own in terms of the net delegate accumulation on a night when a huge fraction of the remaining electable delegates were up for grabs, in states that Clinton was supposed to win. It's now all but impossible for her to overcome Obama's lead in electable delegates, so she'll have to lobby for revotes in FL/MI, to convince superdelegates to vote against their constituencies, and she'll have to play even dirtier and more fear mongerish than she already has.
Not the way we wanted the next few months to play out leading up to the convention. But, Obama is still in a good position to get the nomination. DailyKos did such a good job laying out his path to victory, that I'm going to rip it off completely and post it below (lame bloggetiquette, but hey, it's Friday, and I'm busy). Keep your chins up, Obamaniacs!
Because Barack Obama failed to dispatch Hillary Clinton Tuesday, some in the traditional media are flipping out with talk about how this throws the nomination up in the air, how things are different, "Democrats in disarray" and plenty of other idiocies. Obama and his camp are surely deeply disappointed they didn't defeat Hillary Clinton in the Texas or Ohio primaries. Had Obama won one or both, there would have been calls for Clinton to step aside and let Obama focus on beating John McCain.
Clinton won't step aside now, and few if any "party elders" will ask her to between now and the PA primary on April 22nd. However, her path to the nomination isn't any easier today than it was on Monday. In fact, if you view it like a boxing match, Clinton had been losing round after round on points all through February. Tuesday, in terms of the entire nomination battle, she didn't win as much as rally for a draw for that round. Pundits and her campaign are touting it as a win, but with a net gain of between 5 and 10 delegates, she made up no real ground. Thus, she lost an opportunity to narrow the gap, and now very little chance of securing the nomination. Furthermore, with the certification of votes in California, there appears to have been a net swing of 8 delegates in favor of Obama, thus wiping out her already modest gains from Tuesday.
There are some scenarios that could lead to a Clinton nomination; I'll deal with those in the next post. For now, here's what Obama needs to do to secure the nomination.
Remember the math. If Obama and Clinton split the remaining pledged delegates, Obama would only need 35% of the unpledged delegates (aka superdelegates) who haven't announced a preference, but Clinton would need 65% of the remaining superdelegates. Since Super Tuesday, Clinton has actually lost a net of one superdelegate according to the AP. During the same time, Obama added 53.
Downplay Pennsylvania (and West Virginia and Kentucky): Before the Potomac primary, I wrote that something to watch was how the candidates did west of I-81 in the mountains of western Virginia and Maryland:
First, the bad news for Obama supporters. He's likely to have a rough time in Appalachia. As I discussed yesterday before the polls closed, his performance in far western Maryland and in the mountains of Virginia west of I-81 would be a good indication of how he may perform in southeastern Ohio (and in the later contests in West Virginia and Kentucky). Obama was slaughtered in these counties. In western Maryland and the Virginia counties west of I-81 Clinton won by margins of 2-1 or better. In Buchanan county, in the far southwest part of the state on the WV border, Obama only pulled in 9% of the vote.
Sure enough, on Tuesday Clinton romped in Southern and Eastern Ohio. Other than the counties of Hamilton (Cincinnati) and Athens (Ohio University), Clinton won huge margins in every county that bordered Kentucky, West Virginia or Pennsylvania; in Scioto County, she pulled in 81%. The results from Virginia, Maryland and Ohio demonstrate that the voters of Appalachia are just not inclined to vote for Obama over Clinton, so Obama's chances of winning Pennsylvania, Kentucky or West Virginia are small.
Winning Pennsylvania, where it's a closed primary and Governor Ed Rendell has a good political machine devoted to winning the state for Clinton, will be tough for Obama. And winning it probably won't get rid of Clinton at this point. His chance at the knock out blow was Tuesday. He didn't knock her out. Now he has to wear her down.
Rack up big margins in the states he wins Of the states yet to be contested, only Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky look like natural strongholds for Clinton. Obama will probably win Wyoming, Mississippi, Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana and South Dakota. Even if Clinton wins Guam and Puerto Rico, he will have added to his pledged delegate lead and there will be more stories about Obama wins than Clinton wins. But he can extend his lead even more by winning with big margins and gaining extra delegates.
Continue to Raise More Money than Clinton: It should be easy for him to maintain his fundraising advantage. Assuming he does, he will be able to outspend Clinton, and it will be the kind of metric that the remaining superdelegates will look at in assessing who's better to have at the top of the ticket in November.
Tighten up the surrogate operation: Surrogates who talk to dodgy foreign publications like The Scotsman and call Hillary Clinton a monster, or surrogates who go on television unable to cite any of Obama's accomplishments may not do irreparable harm to the campaign. They don't help, however, and the best that can be said is that they miss opportunities to help their candidate.
Show he's tough, can take a shot and deliver one: One of the lasting (and legitimate) questions is whether Obama will be able to weather the attacks of the Republicans. He's never been challenged in a general election. He needs to assuage any concerns superdelegates might have about his toughness and resolve.
He also needs to take the fight to Clinton. She's been on the offensive for a couple weeks. Her ability to exploit the NAFTA controversy certainly cost Obama votes in Ohio. He needs to now take the gloves off and take the fight to Clinton. He's doing that in Mississippi, using Clinton's dismissal of the state against her. He will probably need to do that more, especially by hitting at her main theme, her experience.
Don't fight against Michigan and Florida: Don't get in to a fight against new contests in Michigan or Florida. Clinton probably can't gain enough delegates even if she won both states to make much of a difference in the overall delegate count. Nevertheless, it's probably not in Obama's immediate self-interest to have a new vote. However, he can't be seen as working against seating the two delegations. Therefore, in objecting to seating the delegations under the proportions of their unsanctioned votes in January, he should simply fall back on the DNC rules, but say if both states want to have DNC-approved contests, he'd support them. Make Clinton go through the contortions of justifying the unsanctioned votes as the basis for going against the DNC rules and seating the MI and FL delegations. Take the high road.
Don't Make any big blunders: Clinton's strategy at this point relies on hanging around and hoping she can force Obama in to enough blunders that he explodes or the superdelegates have enough doubts that they turn to her to prevent disaster in November. If Obama doesn't make any big blunders, the odds that her strategy will work are about nil.
That's an approach for Obama to secure the nomination. He would end the primary period short of the 2,025 delegates needed to lock up the nomination, but we've known for some time that nobody would get enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination before the convention. But if Obama holds or adds to his current delegate lead between now and the end of the primaries, Clinton won't have have any way to get the nomination. Any appeal to seat the MI and FL delegates would probably fail (because the Credentials committee will be weighted in Obama's favor, and Chairman Howard Dean will be able to appoint additional people who will presumably back him up in enforcing the rules). She will be behind in pledged delegates, Obama could overtake her narrowing lead in unpledged delegates, and she will be out of time. With no way to overtake him, she will be forced to concede the nomination to Obama.
There are unknowns, and he would have been much better off having dispatched Clinton on Tuesday. But provided he continues what he's been doing, sharpens and tightens up his campaign and his contrasts with Clinton, and doesn't screw up, he should be the nominee.