It’s been a long campaign with a lot of ups, downs, and surprises. The biggest surprise for Hillary Clinton is that she is not the presumptive nominee for her party. The biggest surprise for observers: That she’s still in the race.
Many people, including notable politicians, celebrities, and members of the media have publically questioned why the former First Lady is still campaigning, charging that a win is impossible. Some have even condemned her for it. However, Senator Clinton might see a way that she can win.
June has come and the race isn’t over. Only three contests remain: Puerto Rico on Sunday, June 1st, and on the third day of June, the final Tuesday in a string of Tuesdays that have been blown well out of proportion, voters in Montana and South Dakota will cast the final ballots in the last primaries of the season.
The Obama Argument
Barack Obama, as he and his fervent supporters are quick to point out, leads in delegate count, and has done so since the first ‘Super Tuesday’ this year, which was held on February 5th. By his own count, Obama currently leads Clinton by 201 delegates. Obama’s camp is also eager to point out that he’s won 33 contests to her 18.
The culmination of these points, combined with national poll numbers that show Obama to be favored over Clinton, surrogates, politicians, and the media have all called the race for Senator Obama, and have responded to Clinton’s longevity in this race with consternation and contempt.
The charge levied is this: The only way that Clinton can win is if the unpledged delegates (“superdelegates”) put her over the top, thereby alienating the voters who determined the allocation of pledged delegates.
Clinton’s Roadmap to Win
What is seldom discussed, however, is that the pledged delegates are not required to vote for any particular candidate, regardless of what the voters or caucus goers in their respective states decided.
Unless there is a consensus made by the superdelegates before the Democratic National Convention in August – which may or may not happen – then Hillary Clinton automatically has a method to win, and to do so with the pledged delegates.
It is unlikely, and by that I mean to say virtually impossible, that either candidate can win the appropriate number of delegates to secure the nomination before the convention. Currently, that number ranges between 2,026 and 2,210.
At the convention, the delegates will cast a ballot. On the first ballot they will all likely vote for whichever candidate that they were pledged to vote for. Since neither candidate will win the first ballot, the candidates and surrogates will be free to make arguments and speeches directly to the delegates. The chair of each delegation will be heavily courted by each side, and deals will be made.
It is in this environment that Clinton can make her argument work. She can argue that she is in a better position than Obama to win the general election, which is true. Current estimates show that Clinton will beat McCain by between 116 to 150 electoral votes. It seems virtually impossible for John McCain to defeat her.
Conversely, Barack Obama fares far worse in a McCain match up. Current polling shows a tossup, with a potential McCain victory by only two electoral votes on one hand, to an Obama win with a margin of just 20 on the other. (And that’s if Ohio goes to Obama, which is statistically still up in the air.)
Further, Clinton has consistently made the argument that she can win the states that a Democrat must win in order to win the general election. This is also true, especially with states such as Ohio and Florida. In a general election, she also is ahead in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia, all states that Obama trails Senator McCain in.
At the convention, Clinton only needs to convince the delegations of one or two of the states where she won by a large margin, i.e. California, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, to cast all of their delegates for her. Expect this to be her strategy.