From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The magic numbers: With just 86 pledged delegates up for grabs in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota, and 212 remaining undeclared superdelegates, Obama just needs about 20-25 superdelegate endorsements to hit the magic 2,026 number to claim the Democratic nomination, assuming he just splits the remaining 86 in half. But it's quite likely that the magic number is going to change, because it appears that the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee has every intention of coming up with some sort of Florida/Michigan compromise. The one number we know it won't be is 2,210 -- the number the Clinton campaign keeps using, because there seems to be little appetite among DNC types (still angry at the calendar mess those two states created) from seating the delegations in full. That means some sort of cut. The most likely magic numbers would be 2,131 or 2,118, which would cut the two delegations in half, either keeping the supers fully in tact (the former number) or cutting them in half, too (the latter). And so if you have those new magic numbers, then Obama needs approximately 50 new superdelegate endorsements to take enough delegates off the table that there is no mathematical possibility for Clinton to secure enough delegates to win the nomination without somehow convincing Obama pledged delegates and/or supers to switch. But we do wonder if Obama does end up in a no man's land where he's taken enough delegates off the table to prevent Clinton from getting the magic number, but there are enough undeclared supers sitting out to prevent Obama from claiming victory, which would give these supers the opportunity to become brokers. Perhaps Obama-Clinton ticket brokers?
*** Perception vs. reality: We've noted how big a role perception has played in these Democratic contests. Some recent examples: Clinton holding a double-digit margin over Obama in Pennsylvania for most of the night until Philly returns dropped it below 10 points, or Obama's big North Carolina victory versus Clinton's narrow one in Indiana. Now here's the latest example: Despite Clinton's 35-point win in a state her husband carried twice, the lead in most of the papers today is Obama's declaration of securing a majority of pledged delegates. The New York Times' headline: "Obama Declares Bid 'Within Reach' After 2 Primaries." The Washington Post: "Obama Takes Delegate Majority." It's the story of the Clinton campaign since March 4. Despite basically running even or slightly ahead of Obama in the primaries held since March 4, she can't change the trajectory of the race. Why? Keep reading...
*** Running in place: Want more proof that these contests haven't really changed a thing since March? Heading into the Pennsylvania primary, according to NBC's count that day, Obama led Clinton by 166 pledged delegates. Heading into Indiana and North Carolina, his lead was 154. Heading into West Virginia, the lead was 164. And heading into last night's contest, the lead was 168. Now, even after her 35-point win in Kentucky (in which she picked up a net of 23 delegates, Obama's lead per NBC's count is 137, and that will only increase after the Oregon numbers are finalized. The more that changes, the more than stays the same, huh? What's more, this is more evidence that Clinton probably lost this campaign between February 5 and March 4. In that month-long period, Obama won 11-straight contests. And, not counting the Virgin Islands and Democrats Abroad, he obtained 281 delegates to Clinton' 163. That nearly 120-delegate difference is pretty much the race right there.
*** Where we stand: Obama leads in pledged delegates per the NBC hard count (1,639 to 1,502), superdelegates (304.5 to 280.5), overall delegates (1,953.5 to 1,782.5 -- including 10 Edwards delegates), the popular vote (16,698,548 to 16,278,635), and the total number of contests won (32 to 18). Note: We're not including Texas in this contest count, given that Clinton won the primary but Obama won the caucus and netted the most total Texas delegates. A bit more on the popular vote... Without adding Florida and Michigan, as noted above, Obama leads by 419,913 votes. Adding Florida to the mix, he leads by 125,141 (17,274,762 to 17,149,621). And adding Michigan but not "uncommitted," Clinton leads by 203,168 (17,477,930 to 17,274,762 ). But do note that the "uncommitted" vote was 238,168.
*** A tale of two states: Here's another thing that last night's contests once again taught us: Obama doesn't have a problem with white working-class voters; he has a problem with white-working class voters in Appalachian states. In Kentucky, just one in five of these folks backed him, but in Oregon nearly half of them did. How different are these two states? Consider these exit-poll numbers… In Kentucky, 57% of primary-goers believe the federal gas-tax holiday is a good idea, while 39% said it was a bad idea. But in Oregon, those numbers were essentially reversed: Just 26% said it was a good idea, while 63% said it was a bad idea. In Kentucky, moreover, 53% said that Obama shares Jeremiah Wright's values; in Oregon, just 32% said that. One other thing to keep in mind regarding Clinton's success in Kentucky and West Virginia, and it has to do with the Clinton brand and the economy. These folks in Appalachia have been hit harder by this economy than folks in other parts of the country. And the last time things were looking up was when a Clinton was in the White House. So while there are a lot of folks wanting to think the worst of some of these voters, let's keep in mind: Appalachia and the Rust Belt, more than any other region of the country, are more likely to vote their pocket book when the economy is in the toilet. And this is where the Clinton brand comes into play. And it could be her best pitch to Obama types when it comes to the veep discussion.
*** The calendar's influence: Like above, a lot has been made of the rather simplistic way to figure out who wins a state primary by examining the demographics. But let's not forget the influence the calendar has had. Imagine if states like California, New Jersey and Alabama stayed in their traditional slot of first Tuesday in June? Imagine if Kentucky and West Virginia hadn't been held on days with so few other primaries -- and so much attention placed on them. The order of these primaries has been as influential as the demographics. Would Clinton have won California, Florida and Michigan by the margins she did had those primaries been held after February 5? Would South Carolina been as influential on the national media's psyche if it had been held on February 5 or afterwards? Obama's being over-examined right now on his so-called white working-class problems. But would we even be focused on this issue if Kentucky and West Virginia weren't so prominent on the calendar?
*** Chuck Hagel vs. Joe Lieberman: : One of the interesting themes today will be the contrasting takes between Republican Chuck Hagel and self-described independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman. Here's Hagel talking about McCain's recent rhetoric in talking about reaching out to Iran: "I'm very upset with John with some of the things he's been saying. And I can't get into the psychoanalysis of it. But I believe that John is smarter than some of the things he is saying. He is, he understands it more. John is a man who reads a lot, he's been around the world. I want him to get above that and maybe when he gets into the general election, and becomes the general election candidate he will have a higher-level discourse on these things." Meanwhile, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Lieberman whacks Obama. "There are of course times when it makes sense to engage in tough diplomacy with hostile governments. Yet what Mr. Obama has proposed is not selective engagement, but a blanket policy of meeting personally as president, without preconditions, in his first year in office, with the leaders of the most vicious, anti-American regimes on the planet." Might this be a preview of the fall veep debate? Obama-Hagel vs. McCain-Lieberman? Stranger things have happened.
*** The Kennedy brand: Just how influential is the Kennedy brand on Democratic politics? Obama's been pegged by some as the next JFK; Clinton the next Teddy K. (particularly if she loses this primary and decides to stay in the Senate); and John Edwards has drawn comparisons to RFK (think poverty tour). The bottom line: Democratic presidential candidates are constantly being compared to the Kennedys. This is not news to many of our readers, but still worth pointing out nonetheless as the political world pays homage to the most dominant political dynasty in Democratic Party politics.
*** Schumer keeps his streak alive: Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, kept his near-perfect record in picking nominees in contested primaries in tact with yesterday's wins by Bruce Lunsford in Kentucky and Jeff Merkley in Oregon. In Lunsford, Schumer got a self-funder who can do all the dirty work of trying to put Mitch McConnell's Senate seat in play as the DSCC decides how hard to compete. And in Merkley, well, he got the candidate he endorsed. The jury's still out about his ability as a candidate and whether he's got what it takes to dislodge GOP Sen. Gordon Smith, who has already spent millions branding himself as a bipartisan/moderate/indie type Republican. Still, at this point, the game is all about having more opportunities than your opponent. And Schumer and the DSCC have that in spades.
*** Obama does Florida: Obama campaigns in Florida today. In fact, with Clinton following him there, you'd think there was a primary or something going on there… Actually, campaigning in Florida can be a three-fer: 1) it's a fall battleground; 2) the state's still a disputed delegate primary battleground; and 3) Central Florida has a sizeable Puerto Rican population that can translate into support for the island's primary on June 1. Clinton campaigns in Boca Raton, Sunrise, and Coral Gables, while Obama holds a rally in Tampa, attends a town hall in Kissimmee, and raises money in Orlando. Meanwhile, McCain raises money in Irvine, CA.
Countdown to Puerto Rico: 11 days
Countdown to Montana, South Dakota: 13 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 167 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 244 days
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