Tag Archive for 'Bowers'

Are we at the tipping point?

Just after the Maine primary, I wondered whether Obama may have been in front all along on the basis that he has been ahead all the way in pledged delegates and the super delegates will probably flock to the leader among pledged delegates in order to build the appearance of unanimity and avoid a floor fight at the convention.

We’ve just had the primaries in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia and as expected, Barack Obama appears to have won all three by strong margins. Here are the updated table and graph, although the data for the 12th of February are still very much estimates:

Date Barack Obama: running total Barack Obama: share of pledged delegates Hillary Clinton: running total Hillary Clinton: share of pledged delegates
3 Jan (IA) 16 51.6% 15 48.4%
8 Jan (NH) 25 51.0% 24 49.0%
19 Jan (NV) 38 51.4% 36 48.6%
26 Jan (SC) 63 56.8% 48 43.2%
5 Feb (Super Tuesday) 903 50.1% 898 49.9%
9 Feb (LA, NE, WA, Virgin Is.) 998 51.4% 944 48.6%
10 Feb (ME) 1013 51.5% 953 48.5%
12 Feb (DC, MD, VA) 1111 52.5% 1006 47.5%


And just as I predicted (well, Chris Bowers predicted and I agreed), we are starting to see twitchy movement in the super delegates. On the one hand, we have people calling for them to vote according to the will of their constituents. Ryan Avent is typical:

[I]t seems that Obama has an excellent chance at winning the District primary tomorrow. Should that be the case, it would be incredibly unfortunate if the District’s superdelegates essentially undid the wishes of the voting public … It is especially galling that D.C. Councilmembers, so familiar with the frustration of disenfranchisement, would contribute to the further erosion of the District’s electoral clout.

… and the super delegates are listening. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives and one of the most influential of currently-neutral super delegates, is “leaning” towards Obama:

A senior adviser to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has suggested that she – along with other “party elders” – will step into the ring to end this extraordinary contest if it threatens Democratic hopes of winning back the White House or maintaining control over Congress. Ms Pelosi says that she is “torn” and that “the people will speak – that’s the beauty of a democracy,” before adding: “My focus is on re-electing a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.”

Her voice would carry great authority among uncommitted super-delegates on Capitol Hill – and she is said to be “leaning” towards Mr Obama. “The party Establishment is not going to turn its back on a candidate who is generating this tremendous excitement and bringing all these new voters into the political process,” said a source close to her. Mr Obama’s team are pressing the same message, especially to members of Congress in districts where he has already won and who may not wish to alienate their core vote in an election year.

Barack Obama: winning since day 1?

Via Matthew Ylesias, I came across this piece by Chris Bowers: “Now Is Not The Time To Count Super Delegates

Right now, with the exception of NBC news, most news outlets are counting super delegates in their running delegate total for the Democratic nomination … From 1984 to 2004, the overwhelming majority of super delegates have cast their convention votes for the candidate who won more votes during the primary and caucus season. This was just as true for Mondale in 1984 as it was for Kerry in 2004. On every single occasion, large numbers of super delegates switched their early, public support for a candidate in favor of the candidate who had the most popular support from voters in Democratic primaries and participants in Democratic caucuses.

This is important stuff. For the 2008 nomination, the Democratic Party will have 3,253 pledged delegates at their August convention and 796 unpledged (or “super”) delegates. If the super-delegates break 90-10 for the winner among pledged delegates, a 1,627 vs. 1,626 split in the pledged delegates would end up as a 2,343 vs. 1,706 vote at the convention and so look like a blow-out for the winner.

Why do they do it? Because they want the public to see the Democratic Party lining up behind a clear candidate. A bitter, narrow fight on the convention floor looks like a divided party that cannot come together and lead, whereas a large win looks like momentum and inevitability. It’s also important to note that, by and large, the super-delegates are up for re-election themselves. From Wikipedia: “In 2008, the superdelegates include 221 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 48 senators, including the District of Columbia’s two shadow senators, 31 state and territorial governors, 397 members of the Democratic National Committee, 23 distinguished party leaders, and 76 others.” Nobody wants to be running for re-election as the guy or girl who voted against their own presidential candidate.

Given all that, I thought I’d have a look at how Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have being going in just the pledged delegates. The data below comes mostly from CNN. Some of the counts are still just estimates. Note that I am ignoring the delegates awarded to John Edwards.


Date Barack Obama: running total Barack Obama: fraction of pledged delegates Hillary Clinton: running total Hillary Clinton: fraction of pledged delegates
3 Jan 16 51.6% 15 48.4%
8 Jan 25 51.0% 24 49.0%
19 Jan 38 51.4% 36 48.6%
26 Jan 63 56.8% 48 43.2%
5 Feb 901 50.1% 899 49.9%
9 Feb 987 51.1% 944 48.9%
10 Feb 1002 51.3% 953 48.7%


In the lead up to super (dooper) Tuesday on the 5th of February, Hillary Clinton had to temporarily stump up US$5 million of her own money. Following the Maine caucus on the 10th of February, she changed her campaign manager. On the 12th of February, the states of Maryland and Virginia and the District of Columbia will vote in their primaries and the Democrats Abroad will finish taking its votes (they started on the 5th of Feb). The polls have Obama clearly in front in Maryland (by 21 points on average) and Virginia (by 17 points on average). The betting markets estimate his chances of winning in Maryland and Virginia at 97.7% and 96.0% respectively. On the 19th of February, Hawaii (where Obama was born) will have its caucus and Wisconsin will have its primary.

It’s not until Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont and Ohio on the 4th of March that pundits are predicting the next win for Hillary, but there’s no guarantee that she’ll win enough to get in front.

Perhaps the “coming from behind” story is wrong. Perhaps Barack Obama has been in front every step of the way in 2008.