Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama's Delegate Count Grows

It's all about the math.

Despite Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's 41-point margin of victory in West Virginia this week, the delegate endorsements -- plus support from a large labor union -- kept rolling in for Sen. Barack Obama yesterday, moving him ever closer to the number that really matters: 2,026.

By day's end, the senator from Illinois had picked up eight new delegates, giving him a total of 1,895, compared with 1,718 for Mrs. Clinton. That means Mr. Obama is 131 delegates short of securing the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr. Obama's attempts to woo blue-collar voters also got a boost when the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers union, which previously had endorsed former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, announced it was "enthusiastically" supporting Mr. Obama.

In a statement, the union said Mr. Obama was "clearly the candidate who can best lead our nation out of the dark period of economic decline created by the Bush administration's allegiance to Wall Street profiteering at the expense of worker prosperity."

Four delegates pledged to Mr. Edwards, who endorsed Mr. Obama on Wednesday, also threw their support to Mr. Obama, as did four superdelegates: Reps. Henry Waxman and Howard Berman of California; Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington; and Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen. Mr. Cohen is a superdelegate whose endorsement is personal and doesn't represent a change in position by the union, which remains uncommitted, a spokesman said.

All in all, yesterday's announcements seemed destined to dent Mrs. Clinton's argument that her West Virginia win keeps her candidacy alive as she heads into the final five primaries -- at least in the eyes of the remaining 230 undecided superdelegates -- party leaders and elected officials who may ultimately decide who is the nominee.

In theory, the superdelegates are free to vote as they please at the convention in late August, but in this unusual campaign, many have already cast their lot with one or the other candidate.

"The numbers don't lie," said Anthony J. Corrado, a political scientist at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, who noted that after the North Carolina and Indiana primaries 10 days ago, 40 superdelegates -- including three former party chairmen -- broke for Mr. Obama, compared with 11 for Mrs. Clinton.

"A number of superdelegates have, based on the math of the delegation selection process, concluded that Barack Obama is going to be the nominee and are starting to make an effort to bring the nominating process to closure," he said.

"There's no way she wins the nomination," added Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, noting he expects a steady rather than overwhelming rush of superdelegates moving to the Obama column in the near future.

"He [Obama] may have understandings with a lot of superdelegates about coming out for him after every contest -- about 10 or 15 at a time -- to play on the notion of the inevitability of his nomination. He's going to get them ultimately, but they are going to let her play out the next two weeks."

Actually, next Tuesday's primaries may allow Mr. Obama to finally claim a majority of pledged delegates, making it easier for him to clinch the nomination without relying too heavily on undecided superdelegates, many of whom have expressed reluctance to act as final arbiters in the nominating process.

Mrs. Clinton is expected to win the Kentucky primary, which has 51 delegates at stake, and Mr. Obama is expected to win in Oregon, with 52, but Mr. Obama needs only 25 total from the two states to give him a majority of the 3,253 pledged delegates. He's expected to do that easily.

Then there's the John Edwards factor. With four of the 19 delegates pledged to him from the Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries now in Mr. Obama's column, attention has switched to the remaining 15.

If they come on board for Mr. Obama, some political analysts believe, that will undercut Mrs. Clinton's argument for including delegates from Florida and Michigan, who were disqualified by the Democratic National Committee after holding their primaries earlier than party rules allowed.

Even if those delegates -- 185 in Florida and 128 in Michigan -- are distributed between the candidates based on the party's rules of proportional allocation, the extra Edwards delegates would still give Mr. Obama a majority of pledged delegates overall, NBC's political director, Chuck Todd, argued on MSNBC's "First Read" Web site yesterday.

In Pennsylvania, only four superdelegates remain undecided, all of them congressmen: Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, Tim Holden, D-Schuylkill, and Robert Brady, D-Philadelphia.

It would "take a miracle" for Mrs. Clinton to secure the nomination now, said Mr. Altmire.

"But I'm going to give her the next two weeks to play out the process," he said, adding he wouldn't formally endorse a candidate until after the final primaries June 3. "I'm waiting out of deference to my district, which voted for her, but after June 3 it will be a very quick decision. A lot of other superdelegates are in the same position I am."

Still, he had harsh words for the Clinton campaign's claim Wednesday that her West Virginia victory shows she is the best candidate to take on Republican John McCain in the fall.

"How do you make the case that you're the strongest candidate in the fall," Mr. Altmire asked, "when you didn't even win your own primary? How do you say you'll run a better campaign in November when the person you lost to ran a better campaign than you did? In the end, it's a political campaign, and he ran a better one, which is why he won."

Clinton campaign officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Next Tuesday's Oregon and Kentucky primaries are followed by Puerto Rico's on June 1, and Montana's and South Dakota's on June 3, with a total of 189 delegates in play. (By Mackenzie Carpenter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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Blogger Suzanne said...

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6:11 PM GMT+8  

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