Two more questions from readers. As you may recall from yesterday's Q&A, this is a new feature where actual readers (that is, friends who have emailed their nutty pro-Obama friend) ask questions. I answer them in hilariously inaccurate fashion, not unlike the pundits on TV. Fun for the whole fambly. So, to the questions.
JB from Portland asks, "What about the super delegates, Jeff? Is there any significant chance the Clintons will call in their longtime political connections and get the nomination that way?"
Thanks for the question, JB. You point out a fear I had back in January, but which is no longer in play. It's true that the Clintons built up huge institutional power among national Democrats, but this power is predicated on Clinton juice.* Once she is no longer the power broker of the party, they'll line up behind he who is--in this case, Obama.
NC will probably go down in the histories as the electoral straw that broke Hillary's back, but in my mind it came two days earlier, in Louisiana. It was there that Democrat Don Cazayoux beat Woody Jenkins in a seat that had been held by Republicans for 34 years. The Republicans spent a million dollars trying to link Cazayoux to Obama, running ads with Jeremiah Wright in an effort to swing the election back to Jenkins. It followed Bill Foster's win in Denny Hastert's old seat in Illinois, a race in which Obama played an active role in promoting.
The Superdelegates are looking at a few factors--who will help them win in '08, particularly in red districts and who will build the party for the future. It doesn't hurt that Obama has also used his PAC to give far more money to superdelegates since he came to Congress in '04 than Hillary. On balance, there's nothing in it for SDs to back Hillary, and every reason for them to back Obama.
Moving on, DE from Portland asks, "Jeff, what is your take on the FL/MI mess? I see that as the biggest threat to Obama winning the nomination now...am I wrong?"
It's no longer much of a threat. There are three dimensions the race will be measured against--popular vote, states won, and delegates. Part of the struggle with FL and MI had to do with how they figured into these dimensions. Obama didn't want to grant Hillary ill-gotten delegates, and he was particularly worried about the popular vote. With the big win in NC, that's all academic. Obama can afford to be generous and settle in these states and still be assured of winning the popular vote and pledged delegate contests.
Obama currently has a pledged delegate lead of 166. Assuming Hillary wins 60% of the remaining pledged delegates, she'll trail by 123. Even if we assume the least favorable outcome for Obama with regard to Michigan and Florida (proportion of the actual vote), he'd still be ahead by 70 or so pledged delegates. The popular vote follows a similar scenario. She can get close, but there just aren't enough big states left to make up the 200,000 vote hole she's currently in (including MI and FL plus the uncounted caucus states).
So no worries, DE, Michigan and Florida are no longer a concern.
*Mind out of the gutter, please.