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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

This may cheer up Hillary Clinton supporters. Once Obama is proclaimed to have gone “over the top” of the number of delegates needed to win a majority at the Democratic Convention, there will technically be a new “Magic Number” prior to that vote becoming official at the Democratic National Convention in August.

That magic number will be the total number of Obama delegates and superdelegates needed to defect in order for Hillary Clinton to win. Now, in reality, with the exception of one recidivist flip-flopper Kevin Rodriquez of the Virgin Islands, no Obama superdelegates are flipping to Clinton. But, the last hope of Clinton supporters is that superdelegates will finally see the light as to how flawed a candidate Obama is, and based on that epiphany will reverse their announced decision to support Obama. In fact, this is what Hillary Clinton and her surrogates are directly pleading on an ongoing basis. Superdelegates can make up their minds independently, we have to win in the fall, the map we had in the past two elections is the only map possible, nobody who loses those states in a primary could win them in a general, etc. “He cannot win, Bill.” And so forth. Arguments that deserve contempt from people with a rudimentary grasp of observable fact and history, of course, but arguments nonetheless.

Let’s assume for the moment that Obama will win 8 pledged delegates in South Dakota and 9 pledged delegates in Montana tomorrow night. Obama will then have 1743.5 pledged delegates earned on his own, 16.5 Edwards declared switches (including Chuck Todd’s reporting of 4.5 Edwards-to-Obama votes in Florida), and 2 potential switches of Clinton pledged delegates to Obama in the Chesapeake region. That’s 1762 pledged delegates in Obama’s column, with 1743.5 of those vetted by his own campaign.

Since at the convention, 2117.5 will be the number of delegates needed to win (barring any deaths or resignations in the meantime), Obama must maintain 355.5 superdelegate votes to keep the nomination clinched. The 18.5 pledged delegates not vetted by Obama’s campaign as pledged supporters could also be considered more swayable (for example, if John Edwards changed his mind). So by the time of the convention, individuals totaling 374 votes must stay in Obama’s column in order for him to retain the clinch.

In other words, the new Magic Number for Clinton after tomorrow night will be the difference between the number of supers + pledged switcher votes Obama is sitting on and 374, plus 100% of the undeclared votes. For example, if Obama has 480 or so of those votes at some point in July, Clinton’s Magic Number will be 106 plus all the votes of anyone still undeclared.

Individuals totaling 354.5 votes sit in Obama’s column as of Jim Clyburn’s addition to the DCW list. [DCW has not added Obama endorser Donna Edwards and has not counted on the 2 Michigan add-ons granted by the RBC deal who total 1 vote and presumably will be vetted and approved by Obama's campaign in advance. By June 17, those votes will be in his column.] Reportedly, tomorrow will be a big superdelegate endorsement day on Capitol Hill so that the pledged delegates from South Dakota and Montana can allow Obama to claim the majority needed for the nomination.

In a real sense, this is an exercise in trivia, since after tomorrow nobody besides the last Japanese soldiers in 1953 will seriously be disputing the reality that Barack Obama will be the nominee. But to those who demand objectivity in the analysis, there will still be a technical Clinton Magic Number prior to the “I Have a Dream” night of August 28, 2008. (And we all know that assassins like to have their say in June!) I’ll keep an eye on that Magic Number, and perhaps whenever one of the Japanese soldiers pops up to mouth off something especially confrontational about the notion of Obama really winning the nomination in Denver, I’ll provide an update.

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