January 11, 2008
There’s been lots of talk lately that the GOP may be heading for a possible brokered presidential nominating convention. I don’t think that will happen. Instead, I suspect the GOP candidates who lose the next few primaries will have trouble raising the cash they need to compete in the final round of primaries, when the winner of the GOP nomination will be determined, in all likelihood, well before the convention. My bet: probably McCain, maybe Huckabee or Romney.
A much more interesting story is developing on the other side where the Democrats have two very strong candidates, Clinton and Obama, who seem certain to remain well-financed right up to and through the convention, fighting toe to toe all the way. Right now, the media is all focused on the Hillary resurrection story, how she came back from the dead in New Hampshire, where she got her mojo back, in part, with some good ol’fashioned gender-baiting.
But here is an angle most of the media have missed. Mathematically speaking, I just don’t see how Hillary can win the nomination. Here’s why: no matter what Hillary does, she can’t seem to get her support above around 40 percent. That was true in Iowa and New Hampshire, although her support bounced around quite a bit up to that limit in both places, and it is also true of the polls for the races upcoming. In other words, 60 percent or so of Democrats are consistently voting against Hillary. She’s stuck around 40 percent.
Likewise, Obama also has been generating up to about 40 percent or so support thus far, give or take a few percent which the two candidates pass back and forth in different states depending on the demographics. Edwards, the only other candidate still standing, gets the rest, his 10 to 20 percent. Many people are wondering why Edwards is still in this thing, why he is hanging in there. But his 10 or 20 percent of the delegates may well be enough to give him the balance of power at the nominating convention. If the present trend continues, Edwards will control the swing votes that Clinton and Obama need to capture the nomination on a second ballot.
Now, in a close contest between Obama and Clinton, who will the Edwards delegates vote for on a second ballot? Clinton? I don’t think so. Not given the hostility most hard-core Edwards supporters feel for the NAFTA-tarred Clintons. And if Edwards gets out before the convention, where do his voters go? Well, one could argue that if they were for Clinton they would already be for Clinton. In Iowa, Obama was the second choice of most Edwards voters, according to the associated press. So, in the face of these obstacles, how does Hillary get the 2025 delegate votes she needs to win the nomination? At the moment, it is much easier to see how Obama gathers enough delegate votes to be nominated, assuming he continues to win his share of delegates, including in the critical California primary, where he has some very deep pocketed support.
On the other hand, one plausible but nightmarish way Hillary might cobble those 2025 votes together is if she arrives at the convention without enough delegates to be nominated, less than Obama and Edwards have together, but then the 20 percent of delegates who are so-called super-delegates, primarily elected officials, including many insiders who are politically indebted to Hill and Bill, manage to put her over the top, essentially overruling the majority of popularly elected delegates. In other words: Bill and Hill save their political hides but lead the Democrats off a cliff. It wouldn’t be the first time.
But my main point here is that while this is far from wrapped up, it sure does look like when it comes to gathering enough delegate votes to actually be nominated, Obama is in the driver’s seat.