Saturday, May 31, 2008

5 Days, 5 Contests

Finally! The end is upon us. By the middle of next week, Obama should be able to declare victory in the race for the Democratic nomination (at the site of the Republican Convention - nice move, Obama). Based more than anything on the outcome of the first contest, today's Democratic Party Rules and By-laws Committee meeting, Hillary should be ready to acknowledge that by conceding, hopefully on Tuesday night.

Contest 1: Rules & Bylaws Committee
With DNC lawyers taking Hillary's favored solution off the table, Michigan and Florida delegates will almost certainly be awarded at half value. Since both Obama and Hillary were on the Florida ballot, that means that the pledged delegate split for Florida should break out to 34.5 for Obama, 52.5 for Hillary.

The big question is how the RBC will deal with Michigan since Obama was not on the ballot there. The state party organization proposes splitting the delegates 69-59 in Clinton's favor. This is characterized as a compromise between Hillary's position of seating all the delegates and the initial Obama position of seating the delegates 50-50. Obama has agreed to this compromise, but Hillary is rejecting it, arguing that she should get no fewer pledged delegates than awarded in the tainted primary. She is also arguing that Obama should get no delegates, that the minority batch of delegates should go to the convention "uncommitted" as they were defined in the illegal Jan. 15 primary ballot. However, Poblano, the brilliant and anonymous statistician at has shown that in a competitive race, by now with the other candidates dropping out, the primary election and subsequent delegate selection process would have awared Obama a majority of 65 delegates to Hillary's 63. But, even if you simply assume that most of the 40% of the votes for "uncommitted" in Florida were for Obama, with some for Edwards, plus add in the 5% of votes that were write-ins for Obama but never counted, and work that through the Congressional District proportional system by which delegates are awarded, the delegate split would end up close to the 69-59 proposed by the Michigan Democratic Party.

Even if this scenario is adopted by the RBC, it would likely need to be halved according to DNC rules. In other words, a net gain of only 5 full delegates for Hillary. This would be accompanied by an 18 vote margin for Hillary in Florida. That's for pledged delegates, the apportionment of superdelegates in both states is a separate issue. In all likelihood those would also be halved as well, in part to avoid creating two classes of delegate within the same state delegation.

Contest 2: Puerto Rico (Sunday)
It's absurd that a territory that can't even vote for president in November is apportioned significantly more delegates than Montana and South Dakota combined - 55 pledged delegates, plus 7 supers. There's a common misconception that because Hillary has done so well with Hispanic voters in other parts of the country. That's not going to help her in Puerto Rico, where the high mixed-race population feels more affinity with Obama than Hispanics in California or Texas. What does help Hillary is that she's the Senator from New York where most Puerto Ricans in America reside. Bill Clinton was popular in Puerto Rico, and Hillary as First Lady played a major role in helping with a big hurricane recovery effort there in the late 90s. The one recent poll (conducted May 8-20) shows Hillary with a 13-point lead - 51-38. Her winning margin may well fall under 10 points. By the way, Puerto Rico falls into the Eastern time zone at this time of year and polls are open from 8am-3pm. So, we should have results by 1 or 2pm Pacific Time.

Contests 3 and 4: South Dakota and Montana (Tuesday)
The polling in both South Dakota (15 pledged delegates/8 super) and Montana (16 pledged/9 super) is kind of stale (another sure sign that the nomination fight is over). But, all indications are that Obama will win by big margins of 15-20 points in each state. The real importance of these states will come in allowing Obama to finish out the primary season with two big wins in one night as he declares victory in the whole process and then starts rolling out big numbers of superdelegates the next day.

And that brings us to Contest 5, Superdelegates. Hillary may or may not concede on Tuesday night, but even if she doesn't, by Wednesday morning the remaining 190 or so superdelegates will start rolling out en masse for Obama. And our long national nightmare will be over. We can only hope.

Update (7:00Pm Saturday): Contest 1 goes to... Obama! The outcome was pretty much as predicted below. Harold Ickes and other HRC supporters on the committee were gracious on the Florida decision but got all pissy about Michigan. They felt that a 73-56 was more accurate an apportionment than the 69-59 proposed by Michigan Democrats. They reserved the right to appeal the decision to the Credentials Committee meeting in July. The magic number is now 2117 and Obama only needs 64 more to reach that magic number. He should reach it by Tuesday night, Wednesday morning at the latest.


Lynn said...

Hey, Bill--

I haven't had time to comb the blogs yet, but any word on why all the polls projecting Obama the winner in SD got it so wrong? Errant Diebold machines or something sinister like that, or just old polls, and bad ones at that?

Montana has been making me very happy lately.

Bill LaBorde said...

A late poll (May 31-June 1) came in from American Research Group after I posted this. The poll showed the race at Clinton 60/Obama 34. However, ARG notoriously has been the worst of the major pollsters in predicting Democratic primary outcomes this season. They were way off on the vote totals this time too, but they got the trend right.

I think the reason Obama lost SD although originally favored was simply because the Clintons outworked him. By late May, Obama had started pursuing a general election strategy, spending time in states like MI, FL, NM and CO. He only visited SD 2-3 times in the two weeks before the primary. The Clintons spent many days there in an attempt to pull out a couple final wins (targeting SD as a better opportunity than MT) and drive up her popular vote totals (more relevant to Puerto Rico).