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First thoughts: The math game

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The Math Game: Both candidates seemed very exhausted during their morning show appearances on TODAY and Morning Joe. And that probably isn't surprising -- tomorrow is the last BIG primary day. Despite the fact that another month of contests is still on the docket, nearly half of all remaining delegates will get handed out tomorrow. And the math will be a lot more crystal clear after tomorrow, both in delegates and the popular vote. Following Guam, there are now 404 pledged delegates up grabs, and 187 of them will be decided on Tuesday. Plus, per our count, there are 268 undeclared superdelegates. Here are the basics of what each candidate needs: Assuming he wins half of the delegates tomorrow (93), Obama needs just 38% of ALL remaining delegates to get to the magic number of 2,025. If Clinton wins 94 delegates on Tuesday, she will need 66% of all remaining delegates. In addition, assuming that delegate split tomorrow, then Clinton will need 85% of all remaining PLEDGED delegates to catch Obama for the lead in that category. Moreover, if Clinton simply wanted to cut Obama's pledged delegate lead to 100, she'd need to win 62% of all remaining delegates after tomorrow. As we've noted before, the math is certainly difficult for Clinton.

*** Enough baggage to fill a plane: There's also plenty baggage going into tomorrow… Clinton can't name a single economist to back up her gas-tax plan. While it's easy to dismiss the idea that economists are heartless folks, isn't one of the chief criticisms of Bush is that he doesn't listen to experts? Also, Clinton defended her "obliterate" Iran comment on Sunday, but refused to reuse the word (doesn't that suggest she DOES regret the choice of words?) Meanwhile, Obama may have to explain at some point his quid pro quo with the Teamsters; how does one who is promising a new transparency in politics promise something that the general public has to find out about via reporters asking tough questions? And then there's Wright, Wright, Wright. When Obama can get through a TV interview without the name Rev. Wright coming up, that's when he'll know he's out of the woods. So far, he's not out of the woods.

*** Poll watch: A new USA Today/Gallup poll out today is disastrous for Obama. He now trails Clinton by seven points and trails her by five on the question of who would be the more electable nominee. A Clinton sweep, and the CW on Obama could absolutely reverse course over night. Then again, an Obama win in just one of the two states and he probably stops the national poll slide. Meanwhile, the latest New York Times/CBS poll has better numbers for Obama: He has a 12-point lead over Clinton; a strong majority approves of the way in which he handled the Wright controversy; and both he and Clinton sport double-digit leads over McCain in hypothetical general election match-ups. 

*** Bill's excellent adventure: If there was ever a day to do a day-on-the-trail story about Bill Clinton, today's the day As we mentioned last week, Bill Clinton makes a whopping nine stops in North Carolina today, most of them in rural parts of the state. The stops? Elizabeth City, New Bern, Jacksonville, Smithfield, Zebulon, Louisburg, Henderson, Roxboro, and Raleigh. As the Washington Post puts it, "After a series of awkward moments and costly missteps while campaigning for his wife, Clinton has finally discovered a role that suits him. He's become the campaign's self-proclaimed 'ambassador to small-town America,' traveling to places where the mere arrival of his motorcade signals a significant moment in local history, where his charm and affability carry substantial weight among voters." 

*** The weekend in delegates: Obama picked up four superdelegates over the weekend, to Clinton's net of zero. Obama got the backing of New Mexico Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colon and three add-on superdelegates -- former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, former South Carolina Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum and Guam add-on Jamie Paulino (after Obama won the Pacific island territory by seven votes). Paulino beat out Clinton backer Cecilia Mafnas, who was previously the vice chair and counted into our superdelegate count. Evening things out, Clinton picked up the other Maryland add-on: former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Obama is also expected to pick up the three Illinois add-on superdelegates today around 2:00 pm after the Illinois Democratic Party's committee meets to officially name the trio. (Note: The Obama campaign announced Kalyn Free of Oklahoma as another super, but we'd already had her on the list as an Obama supporter.) The Delegate Counts: SUPERDELEGATES: Clinton 273-254; PLEDGED: Obama 1,492-1,338; OVERALL: Obama 1,746-1,611. There are 268 undeclared superdelegates. Since the Pennsylvania primary: It's Obama +17, Clinton +11; Since Super Tuesday, Feb. 5: It's Obama +84, Clinton +13; Since Junior Super Tuesday, March 4: It's Obama +41, Clinton +20.

*** Dems win another GOP seat: The questions about the GOP brand and the problems rank-and-file Republican congressional candidates are feeling will continue to linger after the party lost yet another special election Saturday -- this one in Louisiana, where Don Cazayoux (D) beat Woody Jenkins 49%-46 (R) to replace Richard Baker (R). The GOP will be hitting the panic button furiously if the Dems win another upcoming special congressional election in Mississippi district that's 60%-plus GOP.

*** McCain in the Tar Heel state: McCain, who probably is getting tired of getting the also-ran type of coverage these days, heads to North Carolina, where he's likely to grab some of the media coattails from the Clinton-Obama race.

*** On the trail: Elsewhere, Clinton begins her day in North Carolina (in Greenville) and then travels to Indiana (hitting Merrillville, New Albany, and Evansville); Obama begins his day in Evansville, IN, then goes to North Carolina (for a discussion with workers in Durham) and then returns to Indiana (for a rally in Indianapolis; and Michelle Obama -- like Bill Clinton -- is in North Carolina.
Countdown to North Carolina, Indiana: 1 day
Countdown to West Virginia: 8 days
Countdown to Kentucky and Oregon: 15 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 183 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 260 days
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