Corrections force me to beat a dead horse

Since writing my last post on election math, I found out (again) that the variables I used for my calculations were wrong.  So I’ve double-checked the variables and made some corrections.

First, a visual of my projections.  I’ll then explain the variables I plugged into it, and why I used them.  These numbers are current as of Thursday night — which is important to note since the superdelegates totals are very fluid.

Realistic model of primary results and superdelegates, 5/9/08

My final delegate projections for the 2008 Democratic primary are Obama with 2075, and Hillary with 1944.  Since 2025 delegates are needed to take the nomination, Obama wins.  Furthermore, if Hillary were to win the nomination against my projections, she would need 80% of the undecided superdelegates to break her away; Obama needs just 32% of them to get to 2025. 

How I came to these numbers: I first needed to find out how many delegates were left to be decided by the primaries.  Every network and website seems to have a similar count, but different by a few numbers.  I first checked Dave Leip’s US Political Atlas and added up the delegate numbers they have for the five states left and got 150.  I added to that 63 delegates from Puerto Rico to come to a total of 213 delegates left to be fought over in the primaries.  CNN, though, had slightly different numbers, telling me that 217 delegates are left.  In the end, I went with CNN’s numbers — partly because they have a handy-dandy delegate calculator that tells me how many delegates are awarded to both candidates based on the percent of vote they get in a state.  (That’s where the graphic comes from.)

Next, how did I determine the percent of votes that both candidates got in the remaining states?  I went to Pollster and plugged in the latest poll numbers I could find.  I was unfair to Obama in this respect for two reasons: the latest polls still have yet to indicate the bounce he received from his victory and near victory last Tuesday; and in all undecided poll numbers, I gave half to each candidate though always giving Hillary the remainder if the number of undecideds was odd.  Additionally, I discounted the poll from Montana since their latest poll was from last year, instead opting to give Hillary 60% and Obama 40% in the state — giving Hillary a 20 point win. 

All told, using these poll numbers I projected Obama to get 35% in West Virginia, 56% in Oregon, 36% in Kentucky, 43% in Puerto Rico, 52% in South Dakota, and 40% in Montana.  I then plugged these totals into CNN’s delegate calculator to project that the next six primaries — Obama would win 94 delegates (43%), and Hillary would win 123 (57%). 

Given how many delegates each candidate had as of Thursday night, at the end of the primary cycle, my projections say that Obama will have 1940 delegates, and Hillary will have 1808.  For a candidate to win the nomination they need 2025 delegates, so this means that Obama needs to get 85 of the remaining 271 superdelegates.  And Hillary?  She needs 217 of those superdelegates.  

To put that into perspective, Obama needs to win roughly 32% of the superdelegates, but Hillary needs 80% of them. 

I gave both candidates 50% of the remaining superdelegates.  There’s no polling to tell which way they will go, but they have been pretty evenly distributed so far in the primary so I think going dutch is fair.  This makes Obama the winner with 2075 delegates, closely followed by Hillary who, at 1944 delegates, just doesn’t make the cut. 

As I’ve mentioned a couple times, these numbers are current as of Thursday night.  While writing this post, the numbers changed again as more superdelegates declared who they are supporting.  And after posting this, I imagine the numbers will change again, and again…  (Indeed, the superdelegates are breaking towards Obama.)  So instead of constantly updating it, I’m keeping Thursday night’s totals.  I think keeping a record of this is important because it accurately depicts the numbers the media had to work with after the May 6 primaries.  We can play the guesstimating game from here…  How many delegates would Hillary have to win in the upcoming primaries to even this race?  70 percent..  80 percent?  Then she could even things up with the superdelegates; otherwise, she would have to win the super-majority of the superdelegates. 

Either way, we’re talking about impossible circumstances here. 

This is important to point out because whenever someone from Clinton’s team says that a victory from her is still mathematically possible — like I heard a Clinton staffer say on the CNN’s Situation Room yesterday — this is the math.  Saying that Clinton is still in this race because of matheticmatics is like saying that a basketball team down by 30 points going into the final two minutes of the game can still win it.  Sure, they could — just rip off 32 points in 120 seconds, making sure the other team doesn’t score a win, and victory is yours!  It’s never been done before, but sure, it’s possible! 

Yeah, right. 

And though the media has been allowing more vocal calls for Clinton to step down, I really wish “the math” would be discussed.  If somebody mentioned the numbers I’ve displayed (which I’ve tried to make as reality based as possible, even tilting it towards Hillary when I could) to any Clinton support who says that she’s still mathematically in the race, I wonder what they would say. 

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