Can I be pedantic and mathy about the primary for a minute? Someone on my friends list just wrote the following, which seems to be a common line of thought:
[I]t is still entirely possible that she could win, and not just because the Superdelegates decide to overturn the "popular" vote. Right now, Obama has 1,487 pledged delegates and Clinton has 1,331. This is a difference of 156 delegates or 5% of those that have been assigned so far. There still 417 delegates from 7 states and 2 territories that have yet to be assigned.
This is technically true, but I think it overstates the chance of a Clinton win. We hear statements like it and think, "Wow! 417 delegates is way more than the difference between Obama and Clinton! She could still win!" But it's important to keep in mind that primary delegates are awarded proportionally
, not by a winner-take-all system—and this means that only a relatively small fraction of the remaining 417 delegates are actually in play.
This is because, in relatively close state races like these, most
of the delegates in a given state will actually be divided equally between the two candidates, having no effect on the total delegate margin. Since the most dramatic victories in this race so far have been won with a spread of about 30%, this means each candidate can expect to be awarded about 35% of the delegates in any state, at the least. What actually matters is the 30% in the middle that (being generous to Clinton) are more or less up for grabs.
So how many delegates are we really talking about? Well, taking into consideration the sometimes arcane and imperfect allocation processes, about 160
. ( If you don't believe me, you can see how the numbers stack up state-by-state behind the cut. )
What this means, to put it simply, is that even if Clinton won every single remaining state by a margin of 30%, she would still just barely catch up to Obama in pledged delegates. And while it's technically possible
that she could pull that off... Well, it's not going to happen.
I want to stress that this is not an anti-Clinton post. I'm not attacking Clinton or her campaign here. And I will say, because it's obligatory, that it's also possible (and significantly more likely) that Clinton could win by accumulating a critical mass of superdelegates.* But the idea that Clinton has any realistic chance of pulling ahead of Obama in pledged delegates should really be put to rest.
Edit: If I don't respond to comments promptly it's because my computer is in the shop, being given an optical drive that actually works (one hopes).* This too is unlikely, since many superdelegates have said they would be loath to ordain the selection of a candidate if his or her opponent is the clear winner in pledged delegates (not to mention the popular vote and states won) and since superdelegates who have endorsed in the last month have come out overwhelmingly for Obama, who now has the support of only about 25 fewer superdelegates than Clinton.