Clinton Flips on Superdelegates

In urging them not to commit to any candidate, campaign betrays fear of a cascade to Obama.

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Tom Edsall has the scoop: The Hillary Clinton campaign is urging superdelegates not to endorse anyone. It is obviously afraid of a cascade to Barack Obama. And rightly so, given the latest Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania, which shows Clinton leading Obama among primary voters by only 49 to 43 percent. That looks just about the same as Clinton’s current lead in Ohio.

This suggests the following situation if on March 4 Clinton wins in both Ohio and Texas--a dicier proposition every day, given the Texas numbers. As I’ve explained, she’s unlikely to get any significant delegate advantage out of such victories unless her support rises sharply in the next six days. And the Pennsylvania numbers suggest she’s not likely to get much delegate advantage out of an Ohio-size victory there. Pennsylvania selects 55 delegates statewide by proportional representation and 103 delegates by proportional representation in congressional districts. In addition, there are 14 “soft, unpledged” delegates. Including those delegates, a 49-to-43 percent victory would give Clinton a 29-to-26 advantage in statewide delegates. Six of the 19 congressional districts with 26 delegates have even numbers of delegates: probably no delegate advantage for either candidate there; score it 13 to13. The two black-majority districts in Philadelphia have 16 delegates: probably an 11-to-5 Obama advantage. If you assume Clinton carries each of the 11 remaining districts, all with odd numbers of delegates, she gets a 43-to-32 advantage there. Final score: Clinton 90, Obama 82.

In the 2000 race, Bill Bradley, after a big loss in Iowa and a narrow loss in New Hampshire, found it impossible to sustain his campaign for the five weeks before the next contest. He withdrew. The Pennsylvania numbers suggest Clinton would face the same problem, even if she wins both Ohio and Texas. A win in Pennsylvania would not be assured and would in any case not deliver a significant delegate advantage. Obama would have a big money advantage. Yet how could she justify withdrawing after just winning the nation’s second- and seventh-largest states?

A real dilemma for her and her party, which they will be spared if she loses Texas.