After Indiana's and North Carolina's primaries on May 6, the next are in West Virginia May 13, Kentucky and Oregon May 20, Puerto Rico June 1, and Montana and South Dakota June 3. It's very likely that neither candidate will roll up a big string of wins. Indiana is a tossup. Obama is favored in North Carolina, Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota, while Clinton is expected to win West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico.
While Clinton has enjoyed what she called a surge in contributions and pledges of up to $10 million in the 24 hours after her Pennsylvania win, her campaign remains in debt. Obama already has millions of dollars available for the next round of contests, and the money keeps pouring in. Clearly, Obama has an advantage in the money war.
Beyond that, Obama and his surrogates argue not only that he has the most delegates but that he has also won the most states, territories, and the District of Columbia. And with nine contests remaining, Clinton cannot surpass him in the number of states won. Obama also tells superdelegates that he has a half-million-vote lead in the popular vote, at least in contests approved by the national party.
Obama says he is best positioned to attract new voters, young people, independents, affluent suburbanites, and African-Americans and to capitalize on growing anti-Washington sentiments in the electorate and an overwhelming desire for change and reconciliation. He also says he can carry states that haven't been in play for the Democrats in recent years, such as Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Clinton is using a variety of arguments in courting the superdelegates. First of all, she says that if Florida and Michigan are counted, she is actually ahead in the popular vote because she won both states. The problem is that the two states held their primaries too early, in violation of DNC rules, and the candidates boycotted them at the DNC's request. The DNC also disqualified all their delegates. Clinton now wants the results counted. Obama says that's unfair, since the candidates agreed not to campaign there. The party hasn't found a way to resolve the dispute.
Clinton, hoping to stir up "buyer's remorse," says Obama is only now showing his vulnerabilities as the media finally scrutinize him. Clinton says "the tide is turning" and Obama has shown that he can't win the big swing states such as Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania; that he is unpopular among white working-class voters who will be crucial in the swing states; that the states where he is strongest won't generate as many electoral votes as the states where Clinton is strongest. Clinton also argues that Obama can't stand up to the "Republican attack machine," which Clinton has overcome before, and that her background is well known, while Obama's past is still unclear.
The superdelegate system that is so controversial today was devised in 1982 by the Commission on Presidential Nominations, a special DNC panel chaired by then North Carolina Gov. James Hunt. At the time, the party was trying to limit the impact of primaries after George McGovern, backed by a cadre of ideological activists, used the direct democracy of those contests to win the nomination in 1972 and Jimmy Carter did the same to win renomination in 1980. Both were demolished in the general election, McGovern by Richard Nixon and Carter by Ronald Reagan.
The superdelegates were created to give automatic voting power to members of the party establishment who would cast their ballots independently, without being tied to the results of primaries and caucuses. They were empowered to choose the best candidate and not be swayed by the moods and passions of the moment or organized factions that could dominate the primaries.
What has caused so many complications this year is the extremely close race waged by Obama and Clinton. Their support is based in almost equal measure on competing mainstream forces within the party—such as advocates of change who back Obama and backers of party traditions who support Clinton. These are not the reckless left-wing firebrands or ideological factions that the party leaders feared in 1982. Another complication has been the proportional system for awarding delegates, rather than the Republicans' winner-take-all approach. This guarantees that even the loser of a primary will receive enough delegates to keep the race alive and prolong the fight.