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February 6, 2008

Super Tuesday Results: Democrats

The Democratic primary race took an interesting twist last night. Hillary Clinton went into the massive Super Tuesday contest with twice as many wins as Barack Obama and a significant lead in pledged delegates, both normal and superdelegates. She came out of Super Tuesday in almost a dead heat among normal delegates, and losing more contests than she won -- but still technically leading the race.

The Politico claims that the big-state wins gave Hillary an edge, but it ignores the structure of Democratic primaries:

The clarity Democrats so desperately sought escaped them on Super Tuesday, as both candidates found cause to claim victory even as one of them cemented her front-runner status.

By winning critical contested strongholds in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and – most important — California, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York showed big-state muscle and remained the putative leader. Decisive red-state victories in Oklahoma and Tennessee bolstered her assertions of electability.

But Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois proved the breadth of his national appeal and national organization in winning six more primaries and caucuses than his rival.

He narrowly beat Clinton in the key interior state of Missouri. He didn't clearly reverse the campaign narrative or seize the momentum of the race, but he ground out a rough tie in the number of delegates each campaign accrued.

Big states don't mean much for Democratic candidates. All states proportionally allocate delegates in Democratic primaries, so what matters is the overall vote across all of the states. Obama kept it close enough in the big states, and won big in Illinois and other medium-sized states to make up the difference.

In wins, Obama now clearly outshines Hillary. Obama won 14 of the contests yesterday, and he won a broader geographical spread. Hillary won in California, New York and New England, and three Southern states. Obama won the interior West, completely carried the Midwest, got the larger Southern states, and stole Connecticut. A look at the map shows Obama's reach.

Without the superdelegates, the count between Hillary and Obama separates them by a mere six delegates. She has a current lead of 87 superdelegates to put her 93 above Obama, but that may not last long. The next contests favor Obama, with Saturday's Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington primaries, and next Tuesday's DC, Maryland, and Virginia Beltway showdown. Obama will vault ahead of Hillary in normal pledged delegates by next Wednesday -- but probably not with the superdelegates Hillary has in her pocket.

It's still looking like the GOP 1976 for the Democrats. If Hillary has to rely on the superdelegates to beat Obama at the convention, it will be a disaster for the party. They needed a more decisive outcome yesterday, and what they got was a complete muddle.

UPDATE: CapQ commenter RBJ wonders whether I'm including Michigan and Florida delegates in these totals. No, I'm not, but that brings up another point about the convention. Hillary would have a significant lead if those delegates get seated in Denver -- and the floor fight to seat them could be the catalyst for the meltdown I described yesterday. The only way that gets avoided is if Hillary has won the nomination without them.


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