Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Crunching the numbers, all the way to November

As voting is fully underway in the Potomac primary (Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia), let me induldge in some number crunching.
We've been hearing a lot lately about delegates, superdelegates, firewalls, etcetera. But how do the numbers really run down if you actually look at them?

In the Democratic Party, most of the delegates are awarded proportionally. This proportionality is however different state-by-state. A 60-40% can yield a significant net gain or a near split when considering the size of the state and the proportionality rules.

When you browse through the numbers, there are a few trends. Sen. Hillary Clinton wins big states like California, New York and Massachussets, some of them with significant margins (eg. New York, net delegate gain of 40). Sen. Obama wins a lot more states, and many of them with large margins (3-2, 2-1), especially in caucus states. However, the bulk of these states are small and medium sized states. If you add them all up, you see Sen. Clinton getting large wads of delegates out of the big states, but Sen. Obama constantly nibbling away that lead by gathering delegates from a very diverse constituency (ie, the entire country). In the end, you get the deadlock we have today, at about 900-1000 delegates each.

Looking ahead, there are 3 more big states: Ohio (141), Texas (193) and Pennsylvania (151). If you extrapolate past polls, Sen. Clinton will win these states by a 10 to 15 point margin. This would allow her a net gain of anything between about 70-100 delegates. Knowing this, it's perfectly understandeable why Sen. Clinton's campaign is "retreating" to these states. However, if you add all the numbers of the other states, including medium sized Indiana and North Carolina, Sen. Obama could very much neutralize this gain. In fact, a strong showing (victory, dead heat, or single digit loss) of Obama in Ohio and Texas could spell obvious disaster for the Clinton campaign.

Knowing this, you can understand why the Hillary campaign is so adamant on seating the Michigan and Florida delegates. These are big states, with Michigan approximately having 70 delegates and Florida 100. Sen. Hillary would get a net gain of 70-90 delegates out these two alone, and the necessary "lifeguard" or "queenmaker" she requires. An obvious opportunity is however to stunt Sen. Obama in some of the smaller states, denying his continuing crescendo comebacks and ruining his strategy. So far, the Clinton campaign is either unable or unwilling to pursue this route.

If you compare all this to the past elections, the Republicans were always more successful in the smaller states, which tend to be either Red-oriented, or simply overlooked by the Democrats. So it might be symbolically more important to have a wider geographical coalition instead of the centralized urban areas, which have long since been dubbed "Blue".

The superdelegates by the way, whom many fear will "unfairly" decide the outcome of this race, will most likely "go with the flow", and put the candidate over the top with the pledged delegate lead. Anything else would spell disaster for November.

A very likely projection is that either candidate will win with a slim margin, that margin enlarged by the superdelegates. Nobody wants a 50,01% nominee. Added with the fact of campaign fatigue, the general dislike of the two camps for one another, and Sen. McCain's broad appeal as a moderate conservative, war veteran and longtime political powerhouse, Democrats might face another tight election in November, an election that should've swung easily for them.

Are the Democrats so bold to either ride the Obama wave of Transcendency or go with Clinton's rocketship of Gettin' It On? (Fmr. Sen. John Glenn endorsed her today.) The longer the race goes on, the more we risk getting a babbling brook or a blank round instead.

For this blogger, surf's up! But I wouldn't mind a soaring lady Gemini , either.

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