Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, April 04, 2008

The New New Math

Assuming that Howard Dean, DNC Chairman, is right that delegations from Michigan and Florida will be seated (by agreement of the campaigns), the "magic number" of delegates needed to elect is no longer 2025, but 2208. The number of superdelegates is no longer 795, but 795+28(MI)+25 (FL) (note: MI has more superdelegates because it is has more Democratic officials) = 848 superdelegates. A majority of pledged delegates is no longer 1625, but 1785. The press has not started talking about the new numbers.

This is good news for Clinton. While Dean's move in stating that the DNC will seat MI and FL delegations may deprive Clinton of the outside bank-shot chance of winning new primaries, it does give her a great advantage. Obama has predicated his claim to the nomination on the idea that he will obtain a majority of the pledged delegates. How do we measure that now? I think these next states matter very much more than I had previously thought. It also turns out that Edwards' 31 delegates can go a long way to increasing or decreasing a claim to legitimacy.

The problem is that Obama labors under a handicap. The superdelegates will probably give the race to Clinton (out of loyalty, not with regard to merit) unless he wins the pledged delegate count by enough to shame them into not doing so. But if it's close - or even if it just gets much closer- she will claim momentum, victory, and will probably be crowned by her friends at the DNC. Obama can't just win, he must win convincingly. All she has to do is tie. We've heard as much on this blog. And she can do it by any means - whether it's changing the voting format in Puerto Rico at the last moment, monkeying with the rules on Michigan and Florida, or poaching pledged delegates from Obama, or whatever. This double standard infuriates those of us support Obama.


History Buff said...

Do you really think the Superdelegates are going to stick with her out of loyalty. What about Bill Richardson?? (Who also happens to be the candidate I would have voted for if I had gotten the chance.)

Dr. Strangelove said...

Just to be clear, it was my understanding that when Dean had said MI and FL would be seated "by agreement" of the campaigns he also meant they would be seated only if and the campaigns agree. Is this the understanding of others?

The Law Talking Guy said...

Dean said again to the Michigan dem party that the delegates will be seated. I think the message is clear - there will be enormous pressure on both candidates to be some agreement to seat those delegates, which will probably give some net advantage to Clinton in the end.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The strength of the contention that the superdelegates should support the winner of the pledged delegate count waxes and wanes with the margin of victory. If the margin is 100+, the argument is stronger; if the margin is less than 99, the argument is weaker. (You can thank our ten-fingered god for that arbitrary dividing line.)

Obama supporters should take heart, however, that the superdelegate count has narrowed considerably. If the current gap of 30 to 40 superdelegates persists, then that becomes the new key margin of victory, and Obama will almost certainly win. And there is reason to believe this reduced gap will hold up. Many party big-wigs are now supporting Obama--for example, Kennedy, Kerry, Carter, and (arguably) Dean--and the Richardson episode demonstrates that "loyalty" is not all it is cracked up to be. The "double standard" among superdelegates arises partly because Hillary was a well-known quantity and Obama was not, but as he has proven himself on the campaign trail, things have begun to shift. This is all good news for Obama.

LTG is right, however, that Edwards' delegates and the contests yet to come are important. If Hillary has a very good showing (at a minimum, she must win Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia) then she can diminish the margin of victory and win over wavering superdelegates. Likewise, Obama has an opportunity to do well and seal the deal.

Dr. Strangelove said...

This article and its follow-up in the Huffington Post support what I have said: that Dean has chosen not to intervene with MI/FL.

At an Obama-Clinton donor summit last night the Huffington Post reported, "Dean energetically defended himself, saying it was up to the states and the candidates to reach a solution [re MI/FL], and that DNC involvement could be perceived as unfairly assisting one campaign or the other."

Apparently, Clinton donors/supporters were furious with Dean for his "lack of leadership," while Obama supporters applauded him. I figure the guys and gals with the money understand whose side Dean is really on.

Bob said...

Hold up a sec, Dr. S -- I'll grant you that since the candidates' goalpost-setting each seems to maximize their advantage, they're probably acting out of self-interest and no other principle. But assuming that because Dean's decision happens to help one of the candidates, that he's acting out of bias and no other principle is a jump too far.

It seems to me that Dean's decision of inaction is the most appropriate for his position -- the party decided that Michigan and Florida wouldn't get any delegates from their early primaries, and he's sticking with that. If the candidates come to some agreement to seat delegates from those states, he won't stand in the way, but he's not going to push something himself (and surely get accused of helping whichever candidate it would help.)

The fact that Howard Dean doing nothing is seen as throwing the nomination to Obama just shows that Clinton's got very little chance left. I can understand if that's upsetting to her supporters, but the fact remains.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I agree that Dean is not acting out of bias alone. There is another important principle at work here. As you indicate, Dean refrains from acting because he knows anything he does will upset somebody. We usually call this principle "cowardice."

Unfortunately for the Democratic party, the issues surrounding the rejection of the MI/FL delegation go beyond the immediate contest between Obama and Hillary. The DNC intended to penalize the state party organizations in MI/FL, but ended up penalizing the voters in those states instead. If the Republicans win MI/FL in the fall because of this, the Democrats are in trouble. Dean needs to step up and take leadership.

As one of Hillary's aforementioned upset supporters, naturally I do not concur with your assessment of Hillary's chances :-) Yes, in terms of pledged delegates, the mathematics are clear that Obama should end up with at least 100 delegates more than Hillary (barring disasters). But I continue to argue that the exclusion of MI/FL renders that tally incomplete and inconclusive--and thus gives Hillary room to maneuver with the superdelegates. This is why I still believe it is actually in Obama's best interest to graciously agree to seat MI/FL delegation as-is: because then when Obama wins the pledged delegate tally anyway (as we all assume) his claim to victory will be ironclad and the superdelegates will have to support him.

Bob said...

Dr. S, you use my parenthetical as grist for your argument while ignoring the sentences it follows and you equate forbearance with cowardice. That's not an argument that I think helps your case (except with the "liberal hawks", who clearly agree that forbearance must be cowardice.)

Perhaps you can't see principle in the notion that if the national party apparatus insists on a primary schedule, and is ignored, that accepting the results (and giving advantage to the rule-flouters) is destructive to the party.

And because you don't hold to that principle, you assume Dean's a coward. I urge you to accept the possibility that some of us are going to think otherwise.

On a nigh-unrelated note, just because the candidates want to redefine victory, I don't see why we should. The rules are the rules: whoever gets the most votes from _delegates_, pledged and super, gets nominated.

I feel like the scars of Nader running in 2000 are still raw, and so everyone is arguing about what the superdelegates, candidates, and Howard Dean should do "for the good of the party".

I rather think they should vote for who they want to nominate. I don't think there's a good argument for how that'd be _bad_ for the party.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I like the phrase "parenthetical grist." (I just enjoyed squeezing in a chance to write that Dean was a coward. It was therapeutic. Forgive me.) But I have a more serious point. Please (mentally) hold back your objections until you get to the end--my point is somewhat more subtle than what I have said before on this subject.

Outside of the parentheses, you wrote that, "The party decided that Michigan and Florida wouldn't get any delegates from their early primaries, and [Dean is] sticking with that." And if that actually were Dean's position, I would be forced to agree reluctantly that Dean was at least taking a clear and strong stance (even though I would still consider it misguided). But that is not Dean's stance. Not anymore.

As indicated in this thread, Dean now says he wants to seat delegates from FL. In fact, he now says he is "committed" to doing so. He promises that the party will "absolutely seat" delegates from FL, adding that, "we are confident enough that we have reserved hotel rooms for the delegates from Florida in Denver." (He has probably made similar noises about Michigan, but I could not find clear quotes.)

The key point is that Dean wants to lift the punishment the DNC originally imposed on the Florida State Democratic party: their delegates will be seated. Dean apparently now realizes that sticking with the "punishment" (refusing the delegates) is not in the best interests of the national party apparatus. The only question remaining is how best to determine the composition of the MI/FL delegations.

Here is where I fault Dean. Presumably Dean has decided that some MI/FL delegation should be seated for reasons having to do with the national party as a whole--not to favor one candidate over another. Therefore Dean should take the final key step and determine the composition of those delegations for the same national party reasons. But instead he refuses to finish the task and instead leaves it up to "agreement" between the candidates--which makes a nice equitable sound-bite but is nothing of the sort: in this case, even Obama supporters admit that seating MI/FL could never help Obama's raw delegate count under any credible circumstances. Bias is guaranteed by Dean's "solution."

And this need not be the case. As I said, Dean's decision to seat the delegates presumably has nothing to do with favoring Obama or Hillary really--it should be about national party concerns and honoring the voters in MI/FL. That same idea should be the guiding principle in determining the composition as well, whether Obama or Hillary like it or not.

I have been giving this some hard thought, and I have come to accept that the flaws and abnormalities in the MI/FL primary contests cannot be ignored. They weaken the legitimacy of the outcome. Nevertheless, the outcome itself cannot be ignored either, because it is the only way I know of where the sentiments of the voters can be in any way honored. Seating the delegations, but giving them only half-votes instead of full votes each, would seem to incorporate both the need to honor the voters and the understanding that these results are not as strong and clear as they should have been. A full re-vote would be best, but apparently that is considered impractical by just about everyone now, so half-strength seems a decent compromise. I am not sure what to do with the 55 (27.5?) uncommitted delegates from MI, but it is at least clear they cannot be awarded to Hillary.

Bob said...

Holy crap that was a good reply. Go Strangelove!

The Law Talking Guy said...

Wait... so the pro-Clinton position is not wanting to seat the delegates? No, that's not it. It seems that no matter what Dean says, Dr.S will say that it disadvantages Clinton. That's because Bob is right - pretty much everything disadvantages Clinton right now.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Thanks, Bob :-)