Finding The Path

Chris Cillizza asks an interesting question today; What constitutes an actual win for the Clinton campaign on March 4th?  It’s an important query, one that goes straight to the heart of what to expect on March 5th and ultimately the fate of the Democratic nominee and his or her path to the White House.

But I think the question is also a little more complex than that.

More specifically, it’s a matter of audience, or, perhaps, perspective.  The answer changes depending upon whether or not you are looking at it from the persepective of the Clinton campaign or from a more objective standpoint staring down the rest of the map that leads ultimately to the big dance in November.

If we are talking about what the Clinton camp would itself consider a win, that would be a considerably low bar; all they want is enough wiggle room to make it to a brokered convention or a situation where they can make a serious run on the Super Delegates.  But in order for that to happen, there does have to be a bar, the Clinton camp does have to pull out some wins somewhere.

One thing is for certain, they must win Texas.  Now, by winning, for the Clinton camp, we’re talking about just eking out a statistically significant lead in the popular vote.  There has been much talk that based on the way that Texas portions out its delegates that she would need to pull at least about sixty percent of the pop vote to actually come away with more delegates, but remember, at this point the Clinton campaign is hardly even counting delegates; they’re just looking for an excuse to stay in the race, and a win of the popular vote, no matter how small, is going to do the trick.

But the big deal with Texas is that winning Texas is vital to one of Hillary’s more constant electoral charges that Obama can’t win the big states.  She loses Texas, she loses that argument.

Ohio is also a must win, but not nearly as much so.  For one thing, coming up with a win in Ohio should be easier, Obama is making up ground in the state, but Hillary still holds a lead.  Second, delegate count, there aren’t as many delegates, and the state is not getting quite the coverage that Texas is.  Finally, if she wins Texas, that’s going to be what her campaign will push to be the big story in the hopes of drowning out a loss in Ohio.

But even from the Clinton camp’s perspective, she can’t lose Ohio without a MAJOR win in Texas.

As for Rhode Island and Vermont, no one is paying attention, and so the Clinton camp is going to ignore them if they lose, and talk either one up if they win.

That’s what the goggles from the Clinton camp show; Texas by any kind of popular vote majority, and a general Ohio win by any margin.  That’s all they will need to have an excuse to carry on.

But is that the realistic bar based on delegate math and what’s left?  No.

We already know the score by now.  Clinton needs about fifty-five percent of the popular vote in ALL remaining states in order to just catch up to Obama on pledged delegates.  Granted, some of that could be mitigated by a blow out, but with Clinton lagging behind Obama nationally, states with delegates left to be decided running out, particularly among major states, the opportunities for high yield states that she can turn into a blowout are pretty slim.

And Obama continues to have the wind at his back in this campaign which ultimately means that with time running out, Clinton needs to start scoring major troves of delegates AND counteracting Obama’s momentum.

Thus, when we look at March 4th, the first thing to talk about is Texas (again).  Only, in a more realistic and objective setting, she not only needs to win a slim majority of the popular vote, she needs to win the majority of pledged delegates, which as we’ve already covered is about sixty percent of the pop vote.  Throw in the fifty-five percent of the popular vote calculus, and now we’re talking closer to sixty-five percent of the popular vote.

Now, without winning any of the other states, this will still put Clinton in dire straits when it comes to pledged delegates, but it could give Clinton a major momentum boost and would at least validate the campaign continuing on.

But, pledged delegates are the name of the game at this point, and we’re talking about a path to the nomination for Clinton, not merely an excuse to carry on.  That means I’m sticking to the fifty-five percent assertion.  Now, she could recover from losses in Rhode Island and Vermont assuming they are not big losses, but in delegate math, she cannot recover from anything less than a decisive lead in delegates in Ohio.

So the ultimate breakdown from a more objective standpoint is she needs a surprise blowout in Texas, no question.  For a momentum changer, she needs the BO in TX, and a strong win in Ohio.  To actually be back in the game, though, she needs the BO in TX, strong win in Ohio, and at least marginal wins in both of the smaller states.

Without commanding presences in all four states, Hillary may be able to mount a change in momentum, but she’s not going to catch Obama in pledged delegates, I just don’t think it’s going to happen.  But at least winning big in Texas and Ohio could put her close enough to Obama to make a play for Super Delegates.

Will she pull it off?  I don’t think so.  Texas is the key on March 4th, and Hillary has essentially lost her lead there.  She has six days to turn that around but that is going to be an uphill battle with no more debates to jump start things in her direction.

I think she’s going to lose Texas, and from there, she will find no path to the nomination.  None.

One Response to “Finding The Path”

  1. Bostondreams says:

    Great points. But if anyone could find a way to turn crap into cream, its Clinton. Of course, as this campaign shows, the reverse is most assuredly true!

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