New Math

HRC has no legitimate path to the nomination. Her campaign is an undead corpse, waiting only for a stake to be driven through its heart.

Barack Obama picked up nine delegates at the county caucuses in Iowa yesterday, eight from John Edwards and one from Hillary Clinton. He lost one, and Clinton gained one, in the final California count.

Obama now has 1628 delegates, according to RCP.

If Florida and Michigan are seated, he needs 2208 to win. So his magic number is 580.

He figures to get 45 of the 76 Unpledged Additional Delegates.

There are 9 delegates yet to be awarded in states that have already held primaries or caucuses:

Democrats Abroad 3, DC 1, Hawaii 1, Rhode Island 1, Ohio 2, and Texas 1. Assume Obama gets 5 of those, which seems reasonable since he won big in DC, Hawaii, and overseas.

He will get at least 407 delegates from the remaining primaries: 68 in Pennsylvania, 2 in Guam, 36 in Indiana, 63 in North Carolina, 11 in West Virginia, 19 in Kentucky, 29 in Oregon, 8 in Montana, 7 in South Dakota, 64 in Michigan, 80 in Florida, and 22 in Puerto Rico. (Assumptions: 14-point wins for HRC in Florida and Pennsylvania, 20-point blowouts for HRC in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico, even splits in Michigan and Indiana, and 10-point wins for Obama in Guam, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota. All of those seem conservative estimates from Obama’s viewpoint.)

That adds up to 457 out of the 580, so Obama could win with 133 (43%) of the 307 remaining uncommitted ex officio superdelegates even if the Edwards bloc (now down to 20) stands with Edwards or switches en masse to HRC (which seems wildly unlikely given the Iowa results).

By contrast, HRC would need 194 (63%) of the remaining “supers,” or 170 (57%) of the supers plus all the Edwards votes. And she’d have to do that in the face of what would still be an 80-vote edge for Obama among the pledged delegates, a substantial popular-vote edge, and a 2-to-1 lead in constests won, even though most of the “supers” seem to be saying, sensibly, that they don’t want to overrule the pledged delegates.

[The Nelson proposal to seat the improperly-elected Florida delegation but give the delegates only half-votes is actually somewhat better for Obama than the calculation above. It would gain her 19 votes net out of Florida, where I’ve assumed a 25-delegate advantage for her in a re-vote.]

Conclusion HRC has no real path to the nomination. All she can do is make Obama unelectable and hope that the party elders turn to her in desperation. (Or get pledged delegates to betray their pledged word, as Harold Ickes is now threatening.) Ain’t gonna work. Her campaign is an undead corpse, a zombie animated only by the black arts of Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson. The challenge for the party leadership is to drive a stake through its heart as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Update and correction A reader writes:

Wrong wrong wrong. Stakes are for vampires. For zombies you cut off the head.

Duly noted. On the other hand, I might want to do both, and shoot the damned thing with a silver bullet just for good measure. It’s a simple application of the old, old belt-and-suspenders principle: “Embalm, cremate, and bury: take no chances.”

[Which reminds me:

What would you do if you were locked in a room with Osama bin Laden, Dick Cheney, and Mark Penn, and you had the only gun but just two bullets?

Answer: Shoot Penn, twice, just to make sure the son-of-a-bitch was dead.]

Another reader recalls the transcendent wisdom of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer:

Buffy: Why don’t I put a stake through her heart?

Giles: She’s not a vampire.

Buffy: You’d be surprised how many things that’ll kill.

Updated again To correct the arithmetic. I’d somehow manage to count Pennsylvania twice, and forgotten to count the extra superdelegates if Florida and Michigan are seated. Thanks to readers Zoltan and Doretta for catching my error.

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: