Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Any math majors out there?

So, the election...

1. The prah-maries

Clinton had a bit of a comeback last night in Ohio and Texas, but she's still roughly 90 delegates behind Obama, according to the various sources listed on This means that states with primaries in unheard-of months like April, May and maybe even June might actually matter. I then tried to figure out if either of them could still get over the top before the convention, which is not straightforward because of the arcane system of allocating delegates (it's not winner-take-all like the Republican primaries or the general election). As explained on, all you have to do is this:

Allocation Factor = ½ × ( [SDV ÷ TDV] + [SEV ÷ 538] )

The number of base votes assigned to a state is Allocation Factor × 3000 (fractions 0.5 and above are rounded to the next highest integer)


Well, leaving aside all those nasty math symbols, I averaged the delegate counts on after tossing out the highest and lowest scores for each candidate (like with Olympic figure skating) and came up with 1,364 delegates for Clinton and 1,446 for Obama. You need 2,025 to win the nomination, so Obama would need about another 576 and Clinton another 661.

According to this section on, those states that have yet to hold primaries or caucuses have a total of 500 pledged delegates, or 609 delegates if you count both pledged and unpledged. This is where the allocation formula comes in, and I'm not going there, but even if you use a very simple estimate where Obama does well and gets two-thirds of the remaining delegate total (both pledged and unpledged), he would gain another 408 delegates after the primaries were over, for a total of 1,854 -- still about 170 delegates short of getting the nomination sewed up before the convention.

If no candidate has a majority, "this is where 'brokered convention' comes in. Actually, it is more like 'all hell breaks loose'," as the writer said on Jan. 24. "All delegates are now up for grabs. All the candidates try to grab as many delegates as they can. Some state chairman may try to strongarm their delegates into obeying orders... But after the first ballot, the delegates are free agents don't have to obey their chairman or anyone. Some might not care about dams and bridges but might trade their vote for a promise to insert a plank in the platform to [ban voting machines, build a 20' electrified fence on the Mexican border, declare the chicken to be the national fowl, you name it]." Hey everyone, the Ringling Brothers and Obama & Clinton Circus is coming to Denver on August 25-28 -- don't miss it!

I wonder if Florida and Michigan will play any role. They held their primaries earlier than the Democratic National Party wanted, so the DNC stripped them of their delegates, but Clinton won in both states:

Florida: 50% for Clinton, 33% for Obama, 14% for Edwards

Michigan: 55% for Clinton, 40% for "uncommitted" and 4% for Kucinich (because Obama and Edwards withdrew their names from the ballot due to the DNC ruling)

I've search around but I can't find anywhere how many delegates Florida and Michigan WOULD have allocated (even in total) if they'd had their prtmaries when the DNC wanted them to. Given the popular vote totals, Clinton would obviously love to have the delegates from both states seated, though Michigan is ridiculous on the face of it. As the writer further noted on Jan. 24, "Guaranteed these folks are going to show up at the convention and asked to be seated as full delegates. Then the credentials committee will hear their cases and decide what to do... [but] the committee could easily be deadlocked and the fight could spill out onto the convention floor."

One idea is a pre-convention revote in one or both states, if they and/or the DNC would pony up the money. But then of course all the other states would cry foul because a revote would actually give Florida and Michigan voters the advantage of information that voters in the other states didn't have going into the voting booth.

Another factor that seems minor now but may wind up playing a part: Edwards has about 26 delegates and hasn't endorsed anyone yet.

2. Media coverage

The media (including The Boston Globe on March 3 and The New York Times today) have suddenly noticed that they might have been favoring Obama a tad (maybe because he's sort of like a Kennedy but with a better tan?). And the reason for this sudden self-reexamination? "Saturday Night Live," that one true gauge of public opinion, which did a skit on February 23 lampooning a biased debate between the two candidates. It's about 8 minutes long but very funny and worth checking out. Of course the SNL skit was written and performed after the writer's strike ended. Could the timing all be a nefarious plot by the Writer's Guild of America?

Finally, here's an article in City Journal (sent to be my T.) for the anti-Obama crowd, plus a counterbalancing poke at Hillary:

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