The Democratic Presidential Race: A Status Report

by on March 14th, 2008

It looks like Barack Obama has recovered most of the momentum he lost on March 4, when Hillary Clinton broke his winning streak by scoring primary wins in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island. Since then, Obama has been declared the winner in the Texas Caucuses and actually ended up being awarded more delegates from that state than was Clinton. Therefore, what appeared to be major victories for Clinton in the March 4 contests only netted her about six more delegates than Obama. Obama’s subsequent wins in Wyoming and Mississippi netted him seven more delegates than she, meaning that he now leads in total delegates by 124 — one more than he lead by on March 3.

In addition, Clinton had pulled ahead of Obama in the national polls just as she was getting her big wins on March 4. However, that lead only lasted about five days, as Obama was able to pull back ahead of her, even before his resounding victory in Mississippi. His lead in the national polls is now about what is was at the end of February. Most of the professional pundits didn’t seem to notice this — or at least I’ve never heard any of them point it out.

We have just entered what’s going to be a six-week break in the nominating process. The next contest will be the largest remaining (scheduled) prize, Pennsylvania on April 22. However, other states like North Carolina, Indiana, and Oregon, which conduct their primaries in May, also offer plenty of delegates. I believe Clinton will focus mainly on Pennsylvania, while Obama will attempt to hedge his bet by campaigning in all the remaining states.

Clinton’s laser-focused strategy has already hurt her once during this campaign. She concentrated so much on Super Tuesday that she didn’t have a plan for the states that immediately followed it — and lost all of them. That allowed Obama to run off twelve wins in row and build his lead in the delegate race. I could see a similar scenario occurring again after the Pennsylvania Primary. Such a scenario (or even something remotely close to it) would allow Obama to more than erase any gains Clinton would make by winning Pennsylvania.

Of course, the one remaining wildcard in this race is what will happen to the delegates from Michigan and Florida. It is not likely that the Democratic National Committee will reverse its course and allow their earlier primaries to count. What’s more likely are so-called “do-over” primaries conducted in those states in May or June. They would probably be done by mail-in ballot. If this turns out to be the case, Clinton would be a heavy favorite in both states. However, by that time, she might be so far behind in the delegate count that wins both states still wouldn’t bring her to within 100 delegates of Obama. At that point, it would be unlikely that the super delegates would be convinced to come over to her side.

Terry Mitchell