By Skeeter Sanders
It's all over -- almost.
The outcome of the 2008 battle for the Democratic presidential nomination is no longer in doubt: Barack Obama will emerge from the August convention in Denver as the party's standard-bearer for the presidency of the United States.
And there's precious little that Hillary Rodham Clinton -- her campaign all but bankrupt, with a crushing $20 million debt -- can do about it.
Even if the former first lady sweeps the six remaining primaries starting with Tuesday's contest in West Virginia, her rival's overall lead in delegates to the convention is now virtually insurmountable -- even if disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan were included.
Obama all but secured the nomination over the weekend when the Illinois senator erased his New York rival's months-long lead among the party's "superdelegates" by picking up the support of five superdelegates from Utah, Ohio and Arizona -- as well as two from the U.S. Virgin Islands -- who had previously backed Clinton.
The last-minute switches on Saturday -- combined with Clinton's apparent failure to convince the party's 200-plus remaining uncommitted superdelegates that she's more electable than Obama in the November contest against Republican John McCain -- enabled Obama to surpass Clinton's superdelegate total for the first time in the campaign.
They come on top of nine other superdelgates who announced their support for Obama on Friday.
West Virginia, Kentucky to be Clinton's Last Hurrah
Nearly 800 superdelegates will attend the convention. Obama now has commitments from 276, according to the latest tally by The Associated Press. Clinton has 271. That gives Obama an overall delegate lead of 1,864 delegates to Clinton's 1,697 going into Tuesday's West Virginia primary, which Obama already has conceded to Clinton.
The New York senator and former first lady is also expected to win Kentucky's primary on May 20. But West Virginia and Kentucky are all but certain to be Clinton's last hurrah, as whatever delegates she picks up in those two states won't be enough for Clinton to catch up to Obama.
Because of the Democratic Party's system of assigning delegates based upon a candidate's proportion of a state's popular vote, Clinton would have to sweep each of the six remaining contests by landslides of 65 percent of the popular vote or greater in order to capture the nomination, a feat that even the Clinton campaign now admits is impossible, given that she has never won any state -- not even her home state of New York -- by that wide a margin.
Obama, who's expected to win Oregon's May 20 primary and has a better-than-even chance to capture Montana and South Dakota on June 3, is just 160 delegates shy of the 2,025 needed to secure the Democratic nomination.
Even if the disputed delegates from Michigan and Florida are included in the total delegate count -- extremely unlikely given the fact that Obama's name wasn't on the ballot in Michigan and the Clinton campaign already has rejected a compromise plan to split that state's delegates 50-50 -- the former first lady can at most expect to end up with 1,885 total delegates, not enough for the nomination.
Obama, meanwhile, can go over the magic number with 2,144 delegates with wins in Oregon, Montana and South Dakota -- and a two-thirds majority of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates.