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Delegate Scenarios, Edwards Edition

As DemConWatch explains, we can’t automatically assume that John Edwards’ delegates belong to Barack Obama. Instead, they have become something more akin to superdelegates. But I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of them will in fact follow their candidate’s lead and commit to Barack Obama.

One upshot of this is that Obama appears to be on track to clinch a pledged delegate majority next Tuesday under all credible Michigan/Florida scenarios:

The worst of these scenarios for Obama is Scenario D — Michigan and Florida are seated fully, with Obama getting Michigan’s uncommitted delegates. Under this scenario, Obama needs 60 pledged delegates to clinch, whereas he projects to pick up about 47 in next Tuesday’s primaries. So, that would leave him 13 short. But, he’d only need to pick up 13 of the 32 Edwards delegates between now and then to make up the difference — remember, the number of Edwards delegates goes up if we count Florida. Four of those 32 Edwards delegates are effectively off the table, since they’re tied up at the Iowa state conventions, but picking up 13 of the remaining 28 — fewer than half — would seem to be a given.

What about an overall pledged delegate majority? Let’s make a couple of assumptions here. Firstly, let’s say that my pledged delegate projections in the table above are correct, and that Obama adds 88 pledged delegates from this point onward (and Clinton gets 101). Secondly, let’s assign 13 of the 19 Edwards delegates to Obama, 2 to Clinton, and leave his 4 Iowa delegates uncommitted. Thirdly, lets assign the 43 remaining add-on delegates (excluding Michigan) to the candidate who won their state; that would mean 25 delegates for Obama and 18 for Clinton.

Current Pledged Delegates    1602
Current Superdelegates 287.5
Current Total 1889.5
Projected Pledged Delegates 88
Projected Edwards Delegates 13
Projected Add-On Delegates 25
Projected June Total 2015.5

Needed to Win 2025
Magic Number 9.5
Superdelegates Outstanding* 192
Percent Needed to Clinch 5%

* Excluding Add-Ons

By this math, Obama presently has 1889.5 pledged delegates, and projects to have 2015.5 in mid-June, by the time the primaries are completed and after all add-on delegates are selected. That would leave him just 9.5 superdelegates short of a clinch. He might pick up that many by Friday.

What about if Florida and Michigan are seated? Let’s take Obama’s worst Florida/Michigan scenario, Scenario D, and also assume that Florida and Michigan superdelegates get a full vote. This puts 13 additional Edwards delegates on the table; we’ll assign 10 more of those to Obama and the other 3 to Clinton.

Current Pledged Delegates    1602
Current Superdelegates 287.5
FL/MI Pledged Delegates 122
FL/MI Superdelegates 8
Current Total 2019.5
Projected Pledged Delegates 88
Projected Edwards Delegates 23
Projected Add-On Delegates 25
Projected June Total 2155.5

Needed to Win 2209
Magic Number 53.5
Superdelegates Outstanding* 224
Percent Needed to Clinch 24%

* Excluding Add-Ons

Under this scenario, Obama presently has 2019.5 total delegates, and projects to get up to 2155.5 between his share of the Edwards delegates, the add-ons, and the remaining elected delegates. That would leave him 53.5 superdelegates short of the 2209 he’d need to clinch. If Florida and Michigan are included, there are 224 outstanding superdelegates, not counting add-ons, meaning that Obama needs about 25 percent of the remaining total.

Let’s reiterate the most important numbers. If the Edwards delegates, the add-ons, and the remaining pledged delegates fall reasonably in line with expectations:

Obama needs only about 10 more superdelegates to clinch if Florida and Michigan are not seated.

Obama needs only about 55 more superdelegates to endorse him — about a quarter of the remaining total — if Florida and Michigan are fully seated according to Clinton’s wishes.

Only a DEFCON 1 type of meltdown will prevent Obama from getting the nomination at this point.

EDIT: Or, if you prefer, there is Gail Collins‘ scenario:

Given the Democratic Party’s innovative method of doling out delegates, all that’s necessary for her to snatch the nomination is:

1) A big, big win in Kentucky next Tuesday. Ideally, Obama should be limited to no more than 100 votes.

2) Oregon, scheduled for the same day, inexplicably breaks off and sinks into the Pacific Ocean.

3) Puerto Rico, clocking in on June 1, not only gives Clinton a huge majority, but also manages to become a state in advance of the vote.

4) Finally, on June 3 as the South Dakota polls open, Thomas Jefferson’s head on Mount Rushmore comes to life and starts shouting, “You go, girl.”

An ambitious scenario, true. But nothing less than we’ve come to expect from the most hard-working political family in American history.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.