Math update: a question of timing

There are 235 uncommitted superdelegates left. When the voting is done, Obama will need about 60 of those to clinch the nomination. The remaining practical question is, “When does the bandwagon roll?”

Barack Obama is now roughly 300 votes shy of the magic number of 2025 needed to clinch the nomination. (DemConWatch says 301, the campaign says “within 300.” The difference might be in the “unpledged add-on delegates” [UADs].)

Of those, he will get about 70 in North Carolina (assuming a 20-point win) and about 30 in Indiana (assuming a 10-point loss). That brings him within 200 (less whatever superdelegates commit between now and then).

Even on pessimistic assumptions (only a 20-point win in Oregon, 30-point stompings in Kentucky and West Virginia, a 20-point loss in Puerto Rico, narrow wins in Montana and South Dakota) he will pick up just shy of 100 votes in the remaining states.

That means he will need about 100 of the remaining 305 superdelegates (including the “add-ons”). He automatically picks up at least six of those from the “Pelosi Club” of supers who have pledged to support the pledged-delegate winner.

DemConWatch shows Obama with only 8 add-ons (to Clinton’s 3). His actual add-on total will be about 45 (to Clinton’s 31). That comes of winning so many contests.

So between the “Pelosi Club” and the add-ons, Obama gains about 40 of the 100 or so he needs to clinch, but by the same token the pool of remaining uncommitted ex-officio superdelegates shrinks to 235.

So, as of now, Obama needs to get 60 of those 235 people, or just over a quarter. (He can get by with fewer to the extent that he gets votes from among the 18 delegates pledged to Edwards.)

If you’re a superdelegate, or John Edwards, that means you need to keep a careful count of Obama’s pickups among superdelegates. Your leverage to exact glory or favors or policy concessions reaches its maximum when you’re one of the last few needed to push him over the top, but it goes to near zero the day he gets that 2025th commitment. If Obama can keep announcing a superdelegate a day, that would come just about the time the primaries are over in early June. But at some point &#8212 maybe as early as the morning after North Carolina and Indiana if he wins big in NC and wins or keeps close in Indiana &#8212 the remaining supers will start a rush to cash in their chits before the chits become worthless.

The remaining practical question is not “Who is going to be the nominee?”: we’ve known that since Ohio and Texas voted. The remaining practical question is “When does the bandwagon roll?”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: