Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Race for the White House is going to be ... Black or White. But then again ..

When the final outcome is to be determined by superdelegates, it's not so black and white who will win.

In the race for the Democratic nomination, the goal is to attain 2025 delegates to win. Right now, he has 1315 compared to Clinton's 1245 overall delegate number.

Each state has a certain number of delegates, with the most populous states having the most delegates. The Democratic party nominees split the state's delegates proportionally based on the popular vote in state primary elections, and proportionally in state cacauses. While most delegates are "pledged", i.e., they have to represent either Clinton or Obama, the 796 superdelegates are not pledged to either, and can really have the final say in who becomes the party nominee.

The American party nomination process is really a super marathon which started over a year ago. Former underdog Barack Obama has turned the campaign tables around. He has exceeded expectations, surprised pundits, ignited a new interest in politics among the American electorate, and has taken the lead in popular state votes, and in delegates.

He has won the last 10 states. Hillary Clinton can still win but according to political pundits she has to win big in two significant states, Texas and Ohio. It's not looking like a sure thing for her. The demographic that gave her most support is gradually shifting to Obama's side. Wisconsin is the latest to show the trend of his support - he got 53% of the white male vote, a higher than previous, percentage of female voters, and a larger number of "working class" voters. This trend is becoming clearer with each state win for him.

Right now, it is looking good for Obama to win the Democratic nomination. However, it is possible that even if he has most of the overall delegate number at the August Democratic convention, in a close race like this, superdelegates can turn the table for Clinton to win.

You have to wonder just how democratic the U.S. party nomination process is, when the majority of voters prefer one candidate, but a group of mainly inside party members, can potentially vote for a choice that nullifies the popular vote.

There is no obligation for the 796 superdelegates to vote to reflect the overall delegate lead by Obama. They can, but are free to vote either way.

Political experts talk about a vague, non-comittal decision process that could take place among superdelegates. For example, if, there is a significant lead by one over the other, then they will likely vote that way. But there is still no certainty in this at all.

Potentially, assuming for the sake of argument that Obama continues his lead and has say, an overall 200 delegate lead on Clinton going into the August convention, superdelegates could still vote enough to declare Hillary the winner. This seems very unfair, not to mention such a waste of time, energy and money for the loser. One might think, "what was the last year and a half all about?"

Since Super Tuesday, time has definitely been on his side, as the idea of a first black President appears to be more accepted among the general U.S. populace, even more over-60 voters are voting for him.

He has to avoid any major slip-ups, close off weak areas he has been criticized for, like lacking on policy details, and continue to say the "right" things, that are palatable to most voters.

He, more than anyone represents change in the U.S. Of the G8 nations, there have already been at least three female nation leaders, Thatcher, Kim Campbell, and Germany's Angela Merkel. Obama is causing excitement for several reasons - great campaign, great speaker, hope, change, and because he, even by his skin color, represents the greatest leap in direction, political evolution, and attitude change for the U.S. His messages of broader health care coverage, more money in the pockets of seniors (reduced or no income tax to be paid), less tax breaks for the small group of super rich, a yearly minimun wage increase to keep up with inflation, are all appealing to a broader slice of Americans.

Hillary has an uphill battle to reverse the direction he's going. There's a 370 delegates prize in the March 4th primaries in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. She Has to get about a 60/40 size win to catch up with Obama and be back in the race.
No pressure Hllary.

This campaign is full of surprises, and Clinton can indeed win enough delegates to lead again. Or the superdelegates could come to her rescue, or not. If this whole election process were a television series, the current episode could be called "Desperate White House Wives."

The race has a leader, but the outcome is still not yet black or white.


Peter L. Whittle said...

I have been posting on this race as well. I am not sold on Obama but he clearly has been able to keep the momentum. That said the 60/40 split you talk of could happen. Hillary may have lost last night but she is still in the game.

Charles Cheeseman said...

Definitely. She did win the largest states - New York, California, 10 others, and has a large following. Though it is arguably the most interesting U.S. party nomination process yet, it seems kind of strange that she is now in the position of underdog. It's strange because she has been a familiar public figure for so long, is seen to be a hard working representative, has rare high level political experience, bright, and is associated with a prosperous period during Clinton presidency.

For many, she has a likeable persona. So it is odd in a way to see this "winning" person possibly losing to another with less experience, and who is relatively unknown. An interesting election with two impressive people, it's too bad someone won't be winning.

But like you said, it's not over yet, and any misstep, change in public perception about Obama, or a new Clinton policy hook, could change things again. Tomorrow's debate should be interesting.