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February 10, 2008

Obama Sweeps Saturday, Sets Up Showdown On Superdelegates

Barack Obama swept the trio of contests in the Democratic primaries yesterday, increasing his momentum and narrowing the delegate gap even further. The Clinton campaign tried to shrug off the losses as "expected", but with the Beltway contests of DC, Virginia, and Maryland coming on Tuesday, Hillary may not see another win for a while:

Sen. Barack Obama dominated Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in presidential balloting in Nebraska, Louisiana and Washington state last night, besting her by huge margins in those contests and further narrowing her slender advantage in delegates needed to claim the Democratic presidential nomination. ...

Among Democrats, Obama (Ill.) won more than two-thirds of the vote in both Nebraska and Washington, and his lopsided victories gave a boost to his state-by-state strategy of methodically picking up delegates, while highlighting Clinton's struggles in caucuses. Clinton (N.Y.) is focusing her campaign on big states with dense population centers, several of which are scheduled to vote March 4.

Not including delegates awarded in Louisiana, Clinton led the overall hunt with 1,084 delegates to 1,057 for Obama. A total of 2,025 delegates are needed to win the Democratic nomination, and her advantage is largely a result of her edge among "superdelegates," a group made up largely of party and elected officials who make decisions about who to support independent of the primary or caucus results in their states.

CNN shows Obama picking up 23 delegates from Louisiana, and Hillary 16. This gives Obama the lead before the superdelegates are considered, 908-877. Hillary has a 90-vote lead among the superdelegates, and it has become clear that the superdelegates will have to make the difference if the nomination is to be settled before the convention.

This has already generated some anger and threats. Donna Brazile, who has worked to elect Democrats for at least two decades, now says she will renounce the party if superdelegates nominate Hillary if Obama leads in normal pledged delegates. Chris Bowers of Open Left says the same thing in the blogosphere. And why not? If Obama wins more states and wins more delegates, why shouldn't he win the nomination?

Ann Althouse wonders why these Democrats act so unhappy about superdelegates following their own consciences and he rules set up for them. Nothing, actually. That's the same exact argument for the 2000 election and the fact that George Bush won more Electoral College votes while losing the popular vote, and look how well the Democrats handled that.

In fact, though, the EC votes were locked, while the superdelegates are not. They can change their minds at any time prior to the nomination, and many of them will feel the pressure to do so, but for Hillary Clinton and not for Barack Obama. Much of the Democratic establishment owes their careers to the support of the Clintons, and the Clintons will cash in their chits to get their votes in Denver.

There may be nothing against the rules about this kind of campaigning, but it looks as though the Clintons will have bought the nomination -- with at least some element of truth. It will smell bad to see a candidate who lost the pledged delegate race in a two-person contest prevail thanks to some back-room deals that ignore the clear will of the voters. People will rightly wonder why the Democrats bothered to have a primary at all -- and the Obama supporters will probably walk out of the convention as a result.

Keep the popcorn coming, and invite a few friends to watch the show.

UPDATE: The Telegraph in London smells panic wafting across the pond:

Hillary Clinton's most senior advisers are in a state of "panic" about her presidential prospects and are plotting to enlist Democrat leaders in Congress to thwart her rival Barack Obama's ambitions.

The Clinton camp is braced for Mr Obama to win a series of primary elections over the next three weeks, which they fear could hand the Illinois senator unstoppable momentum in the race for the White House.

Hillary figures that she can leverage her influence with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to force Barack Obama out of the race if she wins Texas and Ohio, which have become must-wins for her campaign. The Telegraph says she'd have to offer Obama the bottom slot of the ticket to make it happen, but why would Obama take that deal before the convention?


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