Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Election talk is getting tired, I know. So much more out there and all. Still, as a junkie it's hard not to focus on such a fascinating and close race. Today, I'm wondering this: after Super Tuesday, Clinton folks were saying that they knew Obama had an advantage in February and would win delegates, and that she would have the advantage after that with bigger states worth more. Hard to argue with that analysis, looking at the states in question. But now that he's winning those February states as predicted, they're freaking out. What gives?

As Giuliani found out, the bad vibes of a string of losses over several weeks can be pretty damaging, even if numerically that was your plan. More problematic in this case, however, may be that math. Hillary's path to victory may work to perfection. Clearly, though, she'd like to enter the superdelegate hunt with a lead in pledged delegates. Obama is ahead in that category by some 75-80 right now, depending on the count. If he wins big again today, and gains in Wisconsin next week, his lead could be 125 or 130, even more heading into March. There are big states left, but after February, only 1,195 delegates are still up for grabs. If he's ahead by 130 going in, she has to win the remaining delegates 55-45. If he were to be up by as much as 150 - which seems feasible to me unlikely but possible judging from polls and the last weekend - she would have to win 56-44 the rest of the way. And if you consider that some of those remaining states - MS, MT, SD, WY - should be good ones for Obama, that squeezes the window further.

So far, she has only won 5 states with a 12-point margin or greater: AR, TN, OK, NY, MA. But she may have to do that in PA, TX, OH and NC just to keep going. The margin today - and the outcome in WI coming up - will be a big factor in considering where we are. But I don't think the Clinton plan included losing those recent states as soundly as she has. More of the same today will start to make the math look a bit tough. Of course, the superdelegates can come along and save her. But I'm sure she doesn't want to win that way.

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