Friday, March 21, 2008

New Democratic Delegate Estimates for Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina

Before I get to the estimates for the upcoming primaries, I wanted to note that my last prediction for Mississippi was a 19-14 delegate split in favor of Obama. This was exactly how the delegates ended up being divided in last week's contest, which means the polls helped us predict the delegate split exactly.

Of course, the next primary, Pennsylvania, is not for about a month, which means it is really too early to get a good sense of how the delegates will be divided in that state, much less those that come later. But it is still useful to get a sense of where things stand now and what it would mean for the overall delegate race. This is particularly salient given the number of news stories that have appeared in the past few days suggesting that without a Michigan and Florida re-vote, Clinton has almost no chance in catching up in the delegate race. Is this really the case?

Well, as things stand now, it definitely seems very unlikely that Clinton will make a significant dent in Obama's delegate lead. The polls in Pennsylvania look very good for Clinton, putting her up by 13% in that state, on average. With such a large margin of victory, Clinton would net almost 25 delegates in the state, a significant pick-up. But she would still be over 100 delegates behind at that point and Indiana and North Carolina don't look nearly as favorable toward her candidacy. In North Carolina, the poll-based estimates are that Obama would pick up 11 delegates, almost half of what Clinton would have gained in Pennsylvania. In Indiana, the only poll we have is one taken in mid-February showing 40% for Obama, 25% for Clinton, and a lot of undecided voters. If this lead held up, Obama would net 16 delegates in the state, meaning that he would have erased all the delegate gains Clinton made in Pennsylvania. And after these three primaries, there are very few big delegate contests left.

The bottom line is that it seems nearly impossible to see how Clinton could catch up to Obama's delegate total. Thus, her only real hope at this point is to close the gap enough with Obama so that she can make an argument that not seating the Florida and Michigan delegations are keeping her from being in the delegate lead. If the can do that, it may be an argument that resonates with superdelegates or the credentials committee at the Democratic Convention. For Obama, the goal is to keep enough of a delegate lead that the Florida and Michigan delegations are basically irrelevant (he would win even if they were seated). If he can do this, then he can probably make sure that there will not be a fight at the convention, something he desperately needs to do to give himself the best chance of winning the general election. Of course, August is a long way off...heck, even Pennsylvania's primary seems a long way off at this point. So, I'll keep updating these delegate estimates as new polling data becomes available over the next several weeks.

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