Friday, February 15, 2008

Article 19 Exclusive! The Most Complete Delegate Projection on the Internets [UPDATED Thurs. 2/26.--2 pm]
Barack Obama--1,868.5
Hillary Clinton--1,804
(John Edwards--26)
[Updated most recently to reflect: the latest superdelegate count, and the latest polls in RI, TX and OH. Obama's gains in polls in OH and especially TX makes the math virtually impossible for Hillary if they hold up on Mar. 4, even in this assume-things-goes-her-way scenario. All the trends - polls and superdelegate endorsements are trending Obama.]

So here you have it - the absolute best, most complete, most up to date, most rational delegate projections on all the Intertubes. If you're not into pointless number-crunching and obsessive displays of statistical fantasy, this is the part of the post where you may want to step away.

My starting point is this handy chart at demconwatch. There they have compiled current delegate counts by major news organizations. Some of those organizations are behind in projecting some states, and ahead in others, and some are just plain behind in keeping up with facts. For example, Tennessee has already made our delegate allotment basically official - we had our county conventions last week with firm delegate numbers in place - 40 for Clinton and 28 for Obama. As you can see though, on their list, only CNN has kept pace with that development. But CNN is behind in other states like Maryland, where The Green Papers has projected all delegates. So I'm adding each state with an eye toward whichever news org. has projected the most delegates - hoping that their projections might be based on something actually real.

CBS has alloted the most pledged delegates overall, 2,188 (Obama 1175, Clinton 1013) for an Obama lead of 162). When I add to that the states for which other organizations have projected more delegates (CO, DC, IL, MD, TN, WA, HI, WI, DA) - hopefully properly - that adds 28 for Hillary and 18.5 for Obama, giving Obama a lead of 152.5 pledged delegates to date, 1193.5-1041. (In CA and WA, where 2 different orgs. project all the delegates, but differently. I chose the total more beneficial to Hillary.) There are still l1.5 delegates not yet projected by any news organization: 9, for some reason, in CO, and 2.5 still to be allocated by Democrats Abroad.

Summary: Current pledged delegate count
Obama 1193.5
Clinton 1041
Obama +152.5

Looking Ahead: Poll-Based Speculation
Polls have been published for these upcoming states: VT, RI, TX, OH, NC, and PA. For the sake of argument and pointless speculation, let's assume the delegates shake out according to the average of the 3 most recent polls in each (if there are that many) with the leftover undecided number breaking to Hillary 2:1 to make things interesting. The results looks like this [percentage (delegates)]:
VT (15): Obama - 62.0 - 38.0 (9-6) O +3
RI (21): Clinton - 58.8 - 41.2 (12-9) C +3
OH (141): Clinton - 55.0 - 45.0 (78-63) C +15
TX (193): Clinton - 50.7 - 49.3 (98-95) C +3
PA (158): Clinton - 56.1 - 43.9 (89-69) C +20
NC (115): Obama - 52.3 - 47.7 (60-55) O +5

Those poll averages, plus sending the undecideds Hillary's way 2:1, would give her a net delegate gain in those 6 states of 33 (338-305), cutting Obama's overall 152.5 pledged delegate lead to 119.5, 1498.5 - 1379.

Summary: Delegate Projections for Upcoming States Based on Poll Averages, Assuming Undecideds Break for Clinton 2:1

Obama 305
Clinton 338
Clinton +33

Summary: Current Pledged Delegate Count PLUS Projected Pledged Delegate Count in Upcoming Polled States
Obama 1498.5
Clinton 1379
Obama +119.5

That still leaves 349.5 pledged delegates yet to be assigned - the 11.5 in the section above from CO, plus 338 from those others yet to vote for which there are no polls: Wyoming (12), Mississippi (33), Guam (4), Indiana (72), West Virginia (28), Kentucky (51), Oregon (52), Montana (16), South Dakota (15) and Puerto Rico (55).

What's Left? Can Hillary Win the Pledged Delegates?
If Obama keeps her that far away (119.5) after the 6 states above, as the polls suggest she could, overtaking Obama in pledged delegates would require a Clinton win of the remaining 349.5 delegates by a count of 235-114.5, a margin of 67.2%-32.8%. That would put her ahead in pledged delegates 1614-1613, with only the Edwards 26 delegates left out there to account for the total 3,253 pledged delegates in the whole process (absent FL and MI). The problem for her there is that 128 of those remaining are in states (WY, MS, OR, MT, SD) that would seem to favor Obama, given the way others have gone. If she even managed to tie him in those, she would have to win the rest 171-50.5, a margin of 77.2%-22.8% to accomplish that gain and take a pledged delegate lead heading into the Convention. Impossible.

She will have to significantly outperform current polls in TX and OH to have a chance at the pledged delegate lead.

That's why she faces such a tall order in the pledged delegate count, and why her strategy to ignore smaller states has been such a disaster. Even giving her the benefit in the close calls, and if she wins OH by only 10 and TX by only 5, it won't matter if she crushes PA 60-40 and splits delegates in those later states that seem to favor Obama. She still has to dominate what's left.

Back to the Present: Add in the Superdelegates
Back to our status now - with Obama leading by 152.5. DemConWatch has the most open count of the superdelegates anywhere. They give Hillary a superdelegate lead of 54, 239-185. If we add those in, that cuts Obama's current lead to 98.5. As things stand now, combining pledged delegates and superdelegates who have endorsed, Obama leads by that margin, 1377.5-1278

Summary: Current Pledged Delegates + Current Superdelegate Endorsements
Obama 1377.5
Clinton 1278
Obama +98.5

Superdelegates have been trending slightly Obama lately. By the time of the Convention, there will be 795 total. If the 379 left to endorse split evenly - no reason to think they won't - 186-185, for Hillary let's say - the superdelegate total would be 425-370, Clinton +55.

Superdelegate Projection Summary
Obama 370
Clinton 425
Clinton +55

Add it all together
Add that superdelegate projection to the current pledged delegates count (1193.5-1041, O) and the poll-driven projection of 6 upcoming states above (338-305, C), that would have Obama in the lead 1,868.5-1,804 in the official Article 19 Delegate Projection. Separated by 64.5 delegates. First one to 2,025 wins.

That leaves us essentially tied with the 349.5 other pledged delegates yet to be determined, as described above. Plus John Edwards' 26. But it requires an awful lot of things to go Hillary's way to get her just to tied. She has to hope that a huge win in March goes hand-in-hand with a surge in superdelegates to create momentum allowing her to dominate the late states and get close, then make the case that the primary participants across the country have narrowly made the wrong decision for the party. He has to not screw up, and hold on to his superdelegates.

If Hillary doesn't gain at least 40-50 delegates in OH and TX combined, her hope of gaining the pledged delegate lead before the convention is virtually nonexistent, barring a major change in the dynamics of the race.

A couple of notes:
1. Assuming Obama maintains a pledged delegate lead heading into the convention, there will be plenty of pressure on superdelegates to not overturn that decision. I don't know that Hillary could count on an even split of the remaining superdelegates in such a case.

2. There's something funny about Puerto Rico, which has 55 pledged delegates, the last to be determined, in June. In the Wikipedia article I read for help with the numbers, there is this note:
Puerto Rico issue

Journalists at several news outlets have indicated that in the tradition of the island's party politics, Puerto Rico's 63 delegates will all be awarded to a single candidate and not necessarily follow the majority of the popular vote. This would give Puerto Rico Democratic Party leaders the greatest single influence in the 2008 primary, with a 43% greater disparity than the California primary produced. In contrast, the party's Delegate Selection Plan states that delegates are to be allocated in a manner similar to other state caucuses.
I don't know what that means exactly. If it means the PR caucus can be counted on to result in a unanimous, or near unanimous selection, it would end up being one of the largest prizes of all, which may be why Hillary has opened a campaign office there, despite its late date.

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