Hillary Clinton has a math problem.
In her campaign to win the Democratic nomination to the presidency, Senator Clinton embarked on a strategy designed to paint her as "inevitable." Clearly, she wasn't. In fact, if anything, with just a handful of states left to vote, her path to the nomination has become a very, very long shot. So long, in fact, that she should withdraw from the battlefield, support Senator Obama and unify the party to defeat Senator McCain in November.
That's a bold request. After all, Senator Obama, though he's won the majority of states, leads in the popular vote and has a pledged delegate lead of over 170 delegates, hasn't locked up a majority yet. He hasn't "won." But that's not the point. The point is that Senator Clinton almost certainly will not win, and five more months of a brutal, divisive primary campaign could very well ensure that no Democrat can win in November.
Consider the current state of the race:
As all delegate counts are estimate, there will be a slight "wiggle" in numbers from source to source. These numbers are from CNN.
Presently, Senator Obama is clearly ahead in pledged delegates won in state contests, leading Senator Clinton 1,413 to 1,242, with Senator Edwards trailing with 18 delegates. Clinton's once-formidable lead amongst super delegates has also waned to a mere 37-delegate margin, giving Senator Obama an overall margin of 134 votes with only 914 delegates left unallocated.
Senator Obama has won 53% of pledged delegates that have been allocated thus far; Senator Clinton has claimed 54% of announced super delegates. Over one-third of super delegates, including 75 unnamed super delegates to be elected at upcoming state conventions, remain unaffiliated. Senator Obama's lead amongst pledged delegates has held effectively flat for over the past month, while Senator Clinton's lead amongst super delegates has tightened from an almost 2-to-1 lead in early February. Projection Based on Current Momentum
The remaining contests include races that favor both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton fairly evenly. It is likely that the two candidates will effectively split the remaining pledged delegates. Presuming that, on top of that split, Senator Clinton's margin amongst super delegates ceases to shrink, we can allocate the remaining delegates, super delegates and unnamed super delegates to produce this projection:
Thus, even by splitting the remaining pledged delegates, and winning almost 55% of the remaining super delegates and unnamed super delegates, Senator Clinton would not win the nomination, as Senator Obama would capture a 45-delegate majority. This projection does not allocate the remaining 18 Edwards delegates, as it is unclear where they would go -- though over the weekend some Edwards delegates in Iowa switched to supporting Senator Obama, indicating that his lead, under the precepts of this projection, might actually be a bit higher that is shown here.Projections Including Florida & Michigan Resolution
Of course, the Clinton campaign argues, the above projection involves only 48 state delegations, and excludes delegates from Florida and Michigan. Though Senator Clinton agreed to support the party's rulings last Fall that Florida and Michigan would not receive delegates after moving their contests, she has changed her position on this, and is now demanding that they be seated.
The present state of the race with Florida and Michigan unallocated:
Since she will not go into the Convention with a majority of the automatically-seated delegates, it will be up to Obama's supporters to determine how Florida and Michigan are seated. There's been a lot of talk about this situation in the two weeks since Texas and Ohio (since there's really nothing else to talk about). Right now, the most plausible solution appears to be this:
Recognizing that Florida and Michigan cannot be ignored, but also the political reality of the situation, the Obama-dominated Credentials committee will do something like this: seat the Michigan delegation as a 50-50 split amongst pledged delegates (recognizing the complete invalidity of the contest there), and seat the Florida delegation in proportion to the results in the January primary but with half voting strength (the baseline punishment spelled out in DNC rules for the violation committed by Florida). Super delegates from both states will likely be seated without prejudice.
What does that do to the race?
Presuming, in a best case for Clinton, that she wins all
of the resulting Florida and Michigan super delegates, and not allocating the Edwards delegates, Obama still has a 9-vote majority.
And lest someone cry "unfair" about Florida, note that even seating Florida's pledged delegation full strength won't give Clinton the win:
Obama still takes exactly
half the delegates, and is certain to win at least one of those 18 Edwards delegates, still giving him a majority.
But let's say that doesn't happen, and consider this:
If all remaining pledged delegates are split
and Hillary holds her super delegate margin through the rest of the super delegates
and Michigan is seated 50-50
and Florida is seated at full strength
and Clinton gets all super delegates from Florida and Michigan and Clinton wins all 18 remaining Edwards delegates
, then, at best, in this incredibly unlikely scenario: Clinton and Obama tie
Now, in reality, some of these numbers will shake a bit. As conventions ratify results, Clinton will pick up a delegate or two here, Obama will pick up a delegate or two there (he's already picked up 10 more delegates in conventions than he won on election days). Some of the Florida and Michigan super delegates will go with Obama. Many, if not most, of the remaining Edwards delegates will go to Obama.
So how can Hillary Clinton win?
Realistically, she simply can't. Her only hope is that her share of the super delegates, which has been shrinking for months, will suddenly start to grow dramatically. The only way to achieve that would be to run an incredibly destructive, nasty and divisive campaign that likely won't work
, leaving the party in a terrible position come August.
Hillary Clinton is a great Senator. She would be an excellent President. But she's run a poor campaign, and has ceded her momentum and realistic chance for victory. It's time for her to accept this. The risk of tearing the party apart is too great, the threat of a John McCain presidency too dreadful.
It's time for her to show the same kind of loyalty to the Democratic Party that the Democratic Party showed in standing strong by her and her husband through the battles of the 1990s, and step aside in favor of the only candidate who has a clear path to the Democratic nomination. That candidate is Senator Barack Obama.