DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS
(OR, PERHAPS, NO MORE THAN A HUNDRED)
Hillary Clinton loses her
"superdelegate" lead to
Barack Obama as West
Virginia gets set to vote
Monday, May 12, 2008
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
Another relatively short piece from me here:
Over this past weekend, Senator Clinton apparently lost her one-time edge in public endorsements among formally Unpledged "superdelegates": as of this typing- per our site's own count- there are now 275 "superdelegates" supporting Senator Obama to 270.5 favoring Mrs. Clinton. And this has now raised the stakes even higher for Senator Clinton's presidential ambitions heading into, first, West Virginia on 13 May and both Kentucky and Oregon on 20 May.
Also according to the numbers as posted on 'The Green Papers', Barack Obama had padded his lead in pledged delegates by at least 13 as a result of his big win in North Carolina and narrow loss in Indiana a week ago and this may well turn out to actually be slightly below his actual gain (as the current Indiana calculations seen on 'The Green Papers' at this typing are based on estimates, pending a breakout of the vote in the Indiana Democratic Presidential Primary by Congressional District: for instance, if he and Mrs. Clinton were to, say, have split Indiana's delegation evenly, Mr. Obama's gain in pledged delegates from 6 May would then be +15).
Senator Clinton, therefore, must not only win West Virginia's Democratic Presidential Primary but also win it handily: but, even then, the State in which Mountaineers are ever free will not, in the main, help her all that much (for a 55-45 percentage margin for Senator Clinton gains her back only +2 in relation to the pledged delegates she, in effect, gave away to Obama last week; a 60-40 percentage margin in that State, on the other hand, would give her a gain, in pledged delegates, of +6 [all things being equal]). Thus, unless West Virginia proves to be a rather bad showing on Mrs. Clinton's part, we all must look forward (as I've already written in my more recent Commentaries) to Kentucky and Oregon.
A 55-45 Clinton win in Kentucky would net her an additional gain of around +5 in pledged delegates, while a 60-40 win in the Bluegrass State gains her something in the range of +11; thus, back-to-back "60-40"s in both of these neighboring States on Senator Clinton's behalf would easily erase all that she gave away on 6 May and, therefore, would pretty much bring her back to where she was- in terms of pledged delegate margin- immediately after her victory in Pennsylvania back on 22 April (though she would still be behind Obama in this regard) as the returns from Oregon would begin being reported later that same evening. But all of this only goes to show just how much of an uphill climb Mrs. Clinton faces, right now, in her continuing quest for the Democratic presidential nomination!
Simply put: she cannot at all afford a squeaker of a victory in West Virginia such as she had in Indiana; likewise, however she does- or does not do- in West Virginia, she cannot thereafter have a squeaker of a victory in Kentucky either. In truth, she simply must put down at least a +10 re: pledged delegates relative to Obama (a margin which implies an average of 57% of the vote for the former First Lady between both of those neighboring States); anything less than this 57% of the vote average would be a sure sign of a potential end to her run for the White House. And, in any event, Oregon is a "must win" for her, even as it is also- at the same time- something of a "must win" for Senator Obama (for, even though he can survive a loss in Oregon better than she can, a Clinton victory in Oregon would, indeed, be the very "momentum breaker" she has long been seeking but has not yet gotten): as I already noted previously, Obama simply cannot have North Carolina be his very last victory of the 2008 Primary/Caucus "season" and he certainly cannot allow Senator Clinton to put together a "run" of victories in the few remaining Primaries.
So what to watch, for the time being, is just how well (or badly) Senator Clinton does, first, in West Virginia and, then, Kentucky and, thereafter, wait to see what happens in Oregon. The other thing to watch for, however, is just how the "superdelegates" still on the fence might come to view whatever might actually transpire in these three States: for, if "superdelegates" (whether publicly uncommitted or even previously having publicly endorsed Senator Clinton) begin, in the aftermath of Kentucky/Oregon (and, certainly, this would be even more so if this is to be seen in the wake of West Virginia!), moving toward Senator Obama in significantly larger numbers than was seen over this past weekend (that is, if the "thousand cuts" begin to turn into "hemorrhaging"), it becomes rather difficult to imagine any possible way Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign might yet survive a loss in the Oregon Democratic Presidential Primary, even were such survival to be only long enough lived to allow her to attempt to play her "Florida & Michigan cards" (as might yet be seen in the 31 May meeting of the Democrats' Rules and Bylaws Committee that will begin to sort out just what to do- or not do- about the seating of National Convention delegates from those two sanctioned States, both of which gave Mrs. Clinton a majority of their potential delegates).
As I've said before: it is all now much more about who looks more like the "winner" than actual pledged delegate count coming down the stretch. Therefore, a significant [say, low mid-double digit or more] movement of "superdelegates" towards Obama before the 31 May "hearing" on Florida and Michigan (not to mention the last remaining Presidential Primaries- Puerto Rico on 1 June and then the final Primaries on 3 June) will be a most certain sign that the Democratic Party, as an institution, will have already come to terms with whom that "winner" might, in fact, actually be!