Delegate Narratives

By Big Tent Democrat

I sometimes wonder if I am watching the same election as some people. While it seems clear that the main function of the Left blogs these days is to make fun of the Clinton campaign, I expect some people to have a better sense of the Clinton argument. Some one like Marc Ambinder. But this tells me he is not straying from the Left blog role:

Using delegate projection software created by Matt Vogel, I ran a scenario yesterday showing how tough it will be for Hillary Clinton to catch up to Barack Obama's earned delegate lead.

[L]et's go state-by-state, again assuming that the full sanctions levied by the DNC are kept in place.

Ohio: Clinton wins by 4% and earns a net of 5 delegates
Texas: Obama wins by a net of 8% and earns a net of 15 delegates including those taken from the caucus portion of the contests

. . . So -- under these most rosy of scenarios -- since March 4, she'll have earned 520 delegates to Barack Obama's 461, having reduced his earned delegate total by about 80 ... and be that much closer to 2025.

Wow! I wonder if Ambinder has been listening. Clinton needs to win the big contested states to be able to take a narrative to the Super Delegates that she is more electable in November. If the pledged delegate count shows a 50 delegate lead or an 90 pledged delegate lead or what have you, she needs to have a narrative as to why the Super Delegates should vote for her. The narrative Clinton has is that she can win the big contested states key in the general election. For that narrative to work, Clinton has to win Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania and be close on the pledged delegates and ahead in the popular vote. Then she can argue about Florida and Michigan.

I think this is obviously what the Clinton campaign is trying to set up. But if they do not win Ohio and Texas, the set up does not matter. I guess people love to speculate and do delegate math but it amazes me that the obvious story here has been missed by folks like Ambinder.

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    I think they are being intentionally stupid (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by goldberry on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 06:25:04 PM EST
    It's "baffle them with bull$%^#" stuff.  I find it hard to believe that the public would be confused by the argument because they are focusing strictly on the numbers.  "Oh, look, Honey, Obama has 80 more delagates!  Well, that's that then.  He's our nominee"
    If neither of them reach the magic number, then it doesn't really matter unless he is WAAAAAAYYYY ahead.  And he's not.  So, the superdelegates decide.  This is not that hard to understand.  Big D states trump Utah and Idaho.  

    Whether it works or not (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 06:27:06 PM EST
    that is the strategy. They will need to report on it if Hillary wins TX and OH.

    all this delegate math is simply hilarious. do they enjoy looking stupid?

    Yes, I call them all stupid. At least Chuck Todd calls it Obama spin when he does it.


    Also amusing. (none / 0) (#16)
    by ghost2 on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:38:13 PM EST
    They keep taking their calculators out and saying how Hillary cannot get to the magic number without the superdelegate votes.  Well, Obama can't either.  For either of them to win without the superdelegate, they have to win the rest of the states with landslides (like by 30-40 points).  So, it goes to the convention.

    Yes, playing stupid is intentional.  

    I said before, all this talk of superdelegate trumping the will of voters was a clever setup to 1) put pressure on Hillary, and b) stop superdelegates endorsing Clinton, but take those endorsing Obama nontheless.  


    This is what I have been saying- (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by kenosharick on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 09:02:06 PM EST
    Why does Hillary need 2025 to be declared the winner, but Barack 1300 or so?

    common sense (none / 0) (#35)
    by ksh on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 09:32:55 PM EST
    if one of the candidates makes it to a plurality of pledged delegates after Tuesday and it's more than say 50-100, then that candidate (armed with their momentum) can make a plausible argument that the uncommitted super delegates should support them.  Every dang dem with any sense hopes this happens before the convention.  We can't rely on McCain putting everyone to sleep until then.  He might get some good stuff going and get the focus on him.  

    The only way I see it going to the convention is if Hillary takes most if not all of the remaining states with any margin (so that she can claim some momentum) and I don't see that happening.


    A plurality of PLEDGED delegates?! (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by cymro on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 10:12:09 PM EST
    Your idea of "common sense" disregards the whole purpose the party had for creating superdelegates in the first place, relegating them to a second-class status with no real power, and no role other than to rubber-stamp the "decision" of the pledged delegates.

    In fact, the intent of the party was exactly the opposite. They were created so that they could, if appropriate, override the results of the primaries and caucuses, to give the party the candidate most qualified to win the election.

    If you are not aware of this, OK, but go and do some research. If you are, then please don't try to argue that black is white, because we can all see that it is just spin.


    yes, but no (5.00 / 0) (#48)
    by Tano on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 02:47:27 AM EST
    Look, you are right that the superdels are not there to be soley a rubber stamp.

    But you are very wrong to think they are there to merely pick the most qualified candidate. If that were their role, there would not be any need for primaries.

    You really better hope that they never do something like that. If you think that Obama could win the most delegates and be denied the nomination and the party would remain united, I think you are very wrong. Think how you would feel if Hillary wins TX, OH, PA, and then magically wins all the remaining states, and ends up somehow surpassing Obama in pledged delegates.

    Then, lets say, the superdels step in and give the nomination to Obama. How would you feel?

    This scenario, or the opposite, simply Will. Not. Happen.

    The real role that I see maybe happening is that Hillary's superdels will take her aside and say at some point - either you withdraw in a dignified way, or we are going to all publicly go to Obama. You will not put your own ambition ahead of the need for a unified party.


    The point is that (none / 0) (#49)
    by BrandingIron on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 03:45:38 AM EST
    in that scenario, it wouldn't happen anyway because Obama has less experience, period (and given the hubbub about his lack of attention to his own foreign relations committee, the SDs would be hard-pressed to justify nominating him, never mind the final pledged delegate count or the popular vote). And even on his record of Illinois Legislative "experience", the cracks are starting to show, and if the SDs did their job and looked into his record, then they'd be seeing beyond the rhetoric.  You're arguing an empty argument with this, because one of the things the superdelegates are supposed to guard the party against is inexperience.  You just can't base a party's (or the country's) future on a personality that was packaged for the masses like the next iPod, and that would be one of the bigger arguments in a brokered convention.

    it was a hypothetical example (none / 0) (#50)
    by Tano on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 04:26:37 AM EST
    used to elicit that gut-wrenching anger in the reader to help them understand how Obama's base would feel if the nomination were stolen away from him (and that is how they would see it).

    You need to also recongize that experinece, while it may be a trump criterion for you, is not necessarily the criterion that superdels would think most important.

    There are three scenarios that the superdels would look ahead to:

    Win in November
    Lose in November with a healthy unified party.
    Lose in November with a party destroyed.

    Their number one priority, above all else, is to avoid the third scenario. They are the stewards of the party. Of course they want to win, but avoiding the third scenario must be uppermost.

    Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, if Hillary is given the nomination in a manner that millions of people will see as analogous to how Bush won the WH in 2000, there will not be a Democratic party any more. And she wouldnt win anyway.


    Your hypothetical ignores the realities ... (none / 0) (#51)
    by cymro on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 08:01:35 AM EST
    ... of the situation in which the superdelegates' votes matter.

    For the superdelegates to matter, neither candidate can have a plurality, which leads to a brokered (i.e. negotiated) decision about the ticket. In that situation, both candidates would support the ticket, whatever it was. I happen to think that a Clinton/Obama ticket is the best solution, but I'm not a superdelegate.

    Do you think that Obama supporters would desert to McCain if the superdelegates ended up giving Obama the VP slot on a joint ticket, especially considering that this would set him up for the Presidency in future? If Democrats really believe in their Party and believe that either of these two candidates is vastly superior to any Republican, who could get upset at the prospect of 16 years in the White House?


    Hypotheticals are not meant to describe reality (none / 0) (#53)
    by Tano on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 01:59:42 PM EST
    that is why it is called a hypothetical.

    Look, the point is rather simple. If the two candidates really end up totally tied, for all intents and purposes, then maybe a peaceful compromise like you propose could work.

    But barring some miraculous turn of events, that is not going to happen. Obama has roughly a 150 delegate lead amongst pledged. Even if Clinton wins both the big states, she is probably not going to net very many delegates at all out of the four contests. Even if she goes on to win PA, it is almost certain that Obama will win in many other states, like MS, NC etc. I just don't see any realistic scenario by which she comes even within 100 pledged delegates of him. Barring some huge miraculous turnaround, of course.

    So if she does end up with the nomination, it really does look like it could only happen in a situation whereby Obama will be seen, by his supporters, to have been the clear winner in the actual contested contests. And that will be seen as "stealing" the nomination - the party bigshots taking something away from him that he earned out there amongst the people. There would be an anger that would last generations - this sense that the Democratic party, as an institution, goes to the people and asks them to choose a leader, they do so, and then the institution says nah, we will actually give it to someone else. Why would any of these people ever exert another ounce of energy for the party?

    You seem to blithely assume that having superdels override the results of the primaries is simply a case of them doing their job - doing what they are there for. I do not dispute that they have the power to do so. They do have the right to vote for whomever they choose. But they are not so stupid as to do something that would destroy the party - and that would.


    I dunno, man. (none / 0) (#43)
    by BrandingIron on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 12:41:47 AM EST
    In fact, the intent of the party was exactly the opposite. They were created so that they could, if appropriate, override the results of the primaries and caucuses, to give the party the candidate most qualified to win the election.

    I keep saying this very real fact wherever I go but the Obama people keep ignoring it or whining about why I hate America (okay, that's an exagerration, but only slight--it's more "why do I want to silence the will of the people").  Giant eyerolls from me each and every time it happens.


    you're being too rigid (none / 0) (#52)
    by ksh on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 11:07:23 AM EST
    I know the intent.  But I also know they can vote how they want and can take the repercussions.

    Think about it.


    narrative (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by p lukasiak on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 06:41:24 PM EST
    The narrative Clinton has is that she can win the big contested states key in the general election. For that narrative to work, Clinton has to win Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania and be close on the pledged delegates and ahead in the popular vote. Then she can argue about Florida and Michigan.

    Is that really the narrative?  (especially now that the Clinton campaign is working very hard to lower expectations.)

    I mean, the networks have endlessly (and IIRC inaccurately) hyped some stuff Bill Clinton said about Texas at a rally full of his wife's supporters (IIRC, Bill that Hillary would win the nomination if she takes both Texas and Ohio, and "probably won't" if she loses one of them -- in other words, he was firing up the troops, not doing political analysis).   But the narrative makes no real sense -- Clinton doesn't have to win in Texas, just have a credible showing there   A blowout in Texas for either candidate would be a serious problem, but that doesn't look like its in the cards.  (much like with the GOP in California, the Dems need a candidate who can compete credibly in Texas in order to ensure that McCain is not allowed to safely ignore the state).

    IMHO, Clinton should adopt a new narrative -- she wants to win, but even more importantly, she wants to stay in the race in to ensure that the party isn't locked into a damaged candidate after the inevitable GOP assault that will occur against Obama once he locks in the nomination.

    TX info (none / 0) (#31)
    by RalphB on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 09:11:03 PM EST
    Here's a bit of information that was posted by 'IVR Polls' on another thread in answer to a question I posted about Latino turnout in South Texas being low.  Corrects the blog CW that South Texas won't have a large effect on the primary.  

    "That's some misinfomation that has been become accepted blog wisdom. Turnout is huge in South Texas in the Dem primary. In 2004, Webb County - Laredo - had 29% turnout, compared to Harris County - Houston - which was at 4%. In the general election, turnout is relatively high everywhere, so south Texas doesn't have the disproportionate influence that it does in the primary. Delegates are awarded based on general election Democratic votes. Most south Texas Senate Districts get 4 delegates, which is the average for the state."


    I agree; it's the twilight zone, not an election (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by koshembos on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:21:37 PM EST
    Progressive leaders support a candidate who Pizza Towered towards Republicans. The sane party, the Democrats, are awashed with hate and race baiting. As they say where I come from: "the world ends, the oceans are on fire and the fish climb the trees."

    Ugh tell me about it... (none / 0) (#33)
    by Maria Garcia on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 09:17:21 PM EST
    We were watching Gwen Ifill's show tonight and some commentator was talking about how Latino voters favor Hillary. My son turns to me and says, "What's wrong with your people." Mind you not long ago he was quite proud of his half Latino heritage so apparently Obamamania is stronger than blood.

    My G-d. (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by BrandingIron on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 12:57:03 AM EST
    She needs to convince super delegates to over rule how people voted.

    She doesn't need to do this;  EVERYONE needs to convince them to do their jobs.  Super Delegates will do that anyway if they believe she is the better candidate for the party in November.  Super Delegates, for the very last time towards YOU, DO NOT exist to vote "the will of the people".  They're supposed to vote according to their own judgement as to who would make the better leader for the party, and if they think that's Clinton, it's Clinton.  Seriously, why is this so hard for you Obama folk to comprehend?

    It seems to me (none / 0) (#3)
    by jen on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 06:34:55 PM EST
    we are allowing Repubs and Indys to choose the Democratic nominee. Why is that alright with so many "liberal" Obama supporters?

    Because (none / 0) (#7)
    by ahazydelirium on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 06:50:14 PM EST
    they assume the crossover Republicans and Independents will vote for Obama again in the General Election.

    Ironically, they have no problem with non-Democrats helping to choose the nominee. But so many of them scream about how superdelegates might not follow the will of the people. It just makes me think of Geraldine Ferraro's op-ed piece in the Times the other day.


    Oh, to clarify (none / 0) (#8)
    by ahazydelirium on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 06:51:28 PM EST
    As Ferraro indicates, when people complain about the superdelegates, it is usually framed by the need to preserve the voice of Democratic voters.

    Isn't Clinton (none / 0) (#14)
    by BrandingIron on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:31:22 PM EST
    leading amongst actual declared Democrats, though?  I've been looking for the article that I read about that but can't seem to find it.

    Everyone who votes in the Dem Primary (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Ben Masel on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 09:16:34 PM EST
    by so doing, declares themselves a Dem.

    Semantics, semantics... (none / 0) (#45)
    by BrandingIron on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 12:45:59 AM EST
    ...the game of semantics with Obama people is infinitely TIRING and puerile.

    Let me clarify:  Isn't Clinton leading amongst REAL Democrat votes?  As in, people who are registered Democrats who have BEEN registered Democrats and intend to STAY registered Democrats, not those dang Republicans who become Dems for a Day or the Independents (I can't believe I have to spoon feed Obama people on this...wait, no, I can believe it).


    She was for a while (none / 0) (#19)
    by ahazydelirium on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:41:19 PM EST
    but I don't know the numbers now. I was looking for some article or tally, too. Please let me know if you find one.

    Clinton reading amongst declared dems (none / 0) (#20)
    by Kathy on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:41:32 PM EST
    I have read that as well--maybe here?

    um yeah... (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by p lukasiak on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 08:31:52 PM EST
    I recall something like that too.

    oh yeah.

    I wrote it...


    Many thanks! nt (none / 0) (#29)
    by ahazydelirium on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 09:05:12 PM EST
    I loved that post! (none / 0) (#30)
    by RalphB on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 09:06:39 PM EST
    Lots of work and much appreciated.

    well, while I'm blogwhoring (none / 0) (#34)
    by p lukasiak on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 09:29:44 PM EST
    ....I might as well mention that I published the second in the series yesterday, over at Corrente.

    this one examines how moderates voted -- there is no correlation at all between how moderates and (so-called) "independents" vote, and as with Democrats, "moderates" favor Hillary.  And this is especially true among "swing" and "more competitive" states.  (and the main reason why Obama's overall numbers don't look worse than they do is all the blowouts of the last two weeks that occurred because the Clinton campaign screwed up so badly.)


    Thank you, thank you. (none / 0) (#46)
    by BrandingIron on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 12:47:30 AM EST
    I forgot where I'd read it.  Not that the post wasn't memorable, it's just that I've read SO many articles in the past month that everything is just so blurred together.

    sad (none / 0) (#13)
    by BrandingIron on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:30:12 PM EST

    they assume the crossover Republicans and Independents will vote for Obama again in the General Election.

    And that is their fatal blindness/refusal to see the forest for the trees on this one.  It's sheer denial because they've got to WIN/BEAT CLINTON.  It's as if they've never know what politics is about.


    I thought it was albright! n/t (none / 0) (#18)
    by ghost2 on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:39:08 PM EST
    What is the delgate differential in FL and MI (none / 0) (#4)
    by fuzzyone on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 06:38:12 PM EST
    i.e. how many more delegates does Hillary get if they are all seated (I guess assume the uncommitted in MI go to Obama). Anyone know?

    Florida Delegate breakdown (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by BrandingIron on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:33:15 PM EST

    She would get 105, Obama would get 67.  Edwards would get 13, but then again they're free to cast for whoever they want to at the convention.



    i think she would get 73 (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Tano on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 08:05:08 PM EST
    or so from MI. There are 55 uncommitted.

    BTD could you be misreading the narrative? (none / 0) (#6)
    by dwightkschrute on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 06:48:35 PM EST
    What everyone has been reacting to what they see as goal post moving by the Clinton camp today. It's the general consensus of just about everyone who heard or read them that the point the Clinton team was trying to drive home was if Obama did not win all four primaries he's a weak candidate. The Clinton argument is not he needs to prove he can win a "big contested states key to the general election". In fact, they don't reference the general election at all.

    They're saying that if Obama does not win both OH and TX, as well as RI and VT it's a problem for him. In their eyes Obama just winning one of OH or TX by itself is not enough to prove he's worthy of the nomination or that Clinton should drop out. In fact, your statement of "if they do not win Ohio and Texas, the set up does not matter." is exactly what people see Clinton's camp as trying to refute today.

    what I love... (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by p lukasiak on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:03:42 PM EST
    What I love about this new Clinton narrative is that it plays into the whole "momentum" thing.  I mean, Obama just won eleven straight contest by huge margins, and he can even squeak out four victories on the same day?  If Clinton comes close, given the huge margins in the last two weeks, it means that Obama is fading fast, and people are rejecting him in droves!!!!

    I mean, that is all the Clinton surrogates should be saying, and if anyone tries to contradict them, they should hit them with "Oh, you mean that those eleven straight victories by huge margins suddenly don't matter?  That's funny, since its all you've been hyping for the last two weeks!"


    It's not that they DON'T matter (none / 0) (#17)
    by BrandingIron on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:38:21 PM EST
    it's that some of them WON'T matter in the General Election.  The strategy is twofold with the Clinton campaign.

    And by everyone (none / 0) (#9)
    by dwightkschrute on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:03:36 PM EST
    I suppose I don't just mean Ambinder and Yglesias, but also Ben Smith, Joe Klein, The Note, Tapped, First Read, and TNR.

    Hmm (none / 0) (#21)
    by chemoelectric on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 07:54:10 PM EST
    Methinks the "philosophers" of "narrative" are having a negative effect on the cognition of human beings. I would recommend eschewing that word.

    It was the very pursuit of a "narrative" that has given Hillary Clinton much of her trouble. After all, in a story there is a knock-out climax. Obama doesn't need that and probably doesn't particular want it. He has done many things that people stuck in sports and "narrative" mindsets do not understand correctly; things that work for Obama because of his feel for the way a human being works, including his particular facility with language, which enhances his ability to "think" above that of most people.

    So IMO we should just wait and see what happens, rather than construct stories in the manner of prehistoric myth-makers. Everyone will be happier that way.

    Okay, here's a delegate question (none / 0) (#25)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 08:21:32 PM EST
    Why is John Edwards wanting to keep his delegates... Sez the cheeto-colored blog:

    DailyKOS link

    (My household says it's a protest vote).

    compromise candidate (none / 0) (#27)
    by p lukasiak on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 08:34:02 PM EST
    my household (of one) says that he's looking to emerge as the "compromise" candidate, heading an Edwards/Obama ticket.

    Well, BTD may be right... (none / 0) (#36)
    by sar75 on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 10:05:09 PM EST
    ...this may indeed be the Clinton campaign strategy.  If so, I think it's doomed to fail.

    I do think Ambinder isn't making fun of Clinton, just pointing out some pretty difficult math that she faces.  I can't help but wonder what people would be saying if Obama had lost the last eleven contests.  I think this race would be over.  I think it's perfectly legitimate for Clinton to fight on through March 4, but if she loses Texas and doesn't win convincingly (there, I've moved Bill's goalposts) in Ohio, she should gracefully bow out. I think she will, too - in the end, she's a good Democrat and a team player who wants what's best for the party.  

    What People (like me) are Beginning to Realize (none / 0) (#40)
    by kaleidescope on Fri Feb 29, 2008 at 10:24:40 PM EST
    I was an Edwards supporter, even though I agreed with Russ Feingold's critique of Edwards.  And I think that Hillary Clinton would make a fine president.

    But what is becoming clear is that when it comes to running a campaign -- to branding and inspiring and organizing and getting a ground game up and running -- comparing HRC (a very good campaigner) to Barack Obams is like comparing Eric Clapton to Jimi Hendrix. Or Salieri to Mozart.

    Obama is gifted when it comes to politics.  He has good instincts and almost flawless execution.  You can criticize him for his votes (and absences) in the Senate.  But Obama has a very progressive background.  Like Senator Clinton, Obama has put serious time and effort into representing the powerless and marginalized.

    The corners cut, the stupid votes (like Obama's vote on class action "reform") may be the petty betrayals of a shallow facile politician.  Or they may be the moves necessary for an ambitious black man who doesn't want to be marginalized the way (the much less marginalizable) John Edwards was.

    You can't be perceived as an angry crusading black man and expect to be part of mainstream American politics.

    So given his talent and background there is a possibility that Obama can really get something accomplished in the way LBJ (another Jimi Hendrix of the political world) got things accomplished.

    Given the stakes, I'm willing to take the chance.  Obama may turn out to be no more than Bill Clinton with melanin, in which case we lose.  But -- given global warming and the inability of humans to react to how they are shaping the planet -- we we're pretty much bound to lose anyway.

    There's at least a small chance that Obama could change things radically.  And that's a chance I'm more than willing to take.

    Don't be dissing Eric Clapton now. (none / 0) (#44)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 12:41:48 AM EST