Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Stand Corrected

Apparently, there are still at least a couple of journalists or pundits out there who understand the concept of delegates and their central role in the nominating process.

Given 24 hours to continuously banter for 6 weeks about a single Democratic Primary vote in Pennsylvania would allow for at least a minimal amount of time to devote to the actual process. Alas, it hasn't. What, with constantly searching for the next non-controversy to stoke continuously until, Presto!, you can say people care. No, actually looking at the process itself requires a small bit of research, and who wants to waste time with that when there's endless repetition of things other people say for you to drone on about.

Thankfully, Greg Giroux and Jonathan Allen at CQPolitics have taken the time so the talking heads won't have to.

That answer will be mainly determined not by the sum of the votes Clinton and Obama win in Pennsylvania, but rather by the state’s parts. Pennsylvania will send 187 Democratic delegates to the party’s national convention in Denver this August, and most of them — 103 to be exact — will be allocated according to the votes the candidates receive in each of the state’s 19 congressional districts.

And a CQ Politics analysis of the political circumstances in Pennsylvania’s congressional districts, detailed below, projects an edge to Clinton — but by just 53 district-level delegates to 50 for Obama under the Democratic Party’s proportional distribution rules.

These numbers suggest that Clinton, even with a victory in Pennsylvania, would make only a small incremental gain against Obama’s overall lead in the delegate race.

Of the state’s remaining 84 slots, only 55 pledged delegates will be distributed based on the statewide popular vote, with the state’s remaining 29 seats going to unpledged “superdelegates.”

As is made clear by the authors' breakdowns between the 19 congressional districts, the margin of victory is only important in a PR sense, and bears little effect of the outcome in terms of delegates. For the 103 delegates divvied up by district voting, the margin of victory needed to obtain more than a single delegate more than the opponent is essentially prohibitive. Giroux and Allen speaking of 4-delegate districts, of which there are 5: "So if Clinton defeats Obama 60 percent to 40 percent, the district delegates would split 2-2; if Obama defeats Clinton 60 percent to 40 percent, a 2-2 split would also ensue." Likewise, in a 5-delegate district, 70 percent of the vote would be needed to have a split other than 3-2.

Giroux and Allen continue in a detailed, district-by-district analysis and prediction (they arrive at Clinton 53, Obama 50). But the main point here is that even if they're off slightly--even completely inverse in most districts--the results won't change much unless one candidate absolutely trounces the other, which is implausible.

Even the 55 delegate divided by state-wide vote won't lend Clinton that large a margin. A 55-45 split for Clinton would yield her 30 delegates to Obama's 25. Even a highly-unlikely 60-40 divide would grant a 33-22 mix.

Given that a 20-point margin of victory is highly improbable, a best case scenario for Hillary would have her walking away from Pennsylvania with around a net gain of 10, perhaps 15, delegates. Not nearly enough to cover a margin of over 100.

Assuming Clinton wins Pennsylvania (a safe assumption at this point), the fact remains that nothing will change other than feeding fundraising and continued campaigning. A victory in the popular vote may help morale, but it is clearly not going to gloss over the fact that she is all-but mathematically eliminated from the race and has been for several months.

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