Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Hillary Clinton- can she win?

So the results last night lead us potentially into the scenario I predicted (feared) yesterday. You know the old film cliché? The one where the good guy fails to finish off the bad guy through some misguided act of mercy or misfortune. Then the bad guy comes back bigger and stronger. Sci-fi, superhero, western, boxing, gangster movies all follow the same narrative path. And now the Democratic presidential primary is following suit.

I'm not going to say who is the good guy and who is the bad guy but Hillary and Barack are locked in a contest where neither is able to land the knock out blow. Even after last night, however, it is not clear how Hillary can win this nomination without inflicting severe damage on the Democrats' chances in November (this, as you will see below, is not a criticism just a likely scenario.) Unless Obama's candidacy implodes through some horrendous gaff that completely discredits him, the numbers stack up in Obama's favour. Formidably.

Once the final delegate tally has been calculated, Obama will have a lead some in the region of 140 pledged delegates (let's leave the super-delegates to one side for one moment). There are only 641 pledged delegates still to be distributed. On that alone, Clinton would have to win 60% or so of the delegates to catch up Obama. He will in all likelihood (given what has occurred previously) win states like North Carolina (he has double digit leads there already), West Virginia, Mississippi and Oregon. Assume a lead of +20 in those states, that will leave Clinton needing +160 or so from 400 odd to win. She would have to win the remaining states 70-30 or so to win. It's just not going to happen.

Ah but wait. There is Michigan and Florida. Remember, these delegations have been barred from the convention and Clinton won them. Obama didn't even put his name on the ballot sheet in Michigan. So to seat the delegates from these states' primaries would clearly be unjust. What will the DNC do about? Well, they may run caucuses again in those states.

Let's assume that Clinton won those caucuses 55-45 (VERY generous numbers). She could end up with a delegate haul of +36 from Florida and Michigan. Clinton would still need to net 58% of the delegates from the remaining primaries and 67% from the remaining primaries if Obama wins North Carolina, West Virginia and Oregon.

So the sums just don't seem to add up for Hillary. So why on earth is she not conceding?

Politics is about momentum not numbers right? There is a scenario where Hillary could plausibly win. If she starts to win consecutive primaries. If she starts to eat into Obama's base. If she wins one or two surprise states- something like a North Carolina. If she regains her national poll lead and starts to perform better than Obama in head-to-head polls with McCain. Then she could plausibly go to the Democratic Convention in Denver and say to the super-delegates, "I had a tough early campaign. Obama came from nowhere. But as soon as I got back on my feet, I was unstoppable. I have the momentum. I am the candidate most likely to beat McCain. Give me your support."

That is a plausible scenario. That is why she is not quitting. If I was her I wouldn't quit either. She probably has no better than a 25% chance but when the prize is so big it is absolutely worth playing.

For what that may do to the Democrats chances in November please see my post yesterday. But don't blame Hillary. She has every right to fight on while there is still a chance of success and after last night there is still a chance.

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