We are in for a long haul. The nomination will not be decided until at least late March.
The conventional wisdom in Washington, which is often wrong, but to which I subscribe in this case, as I have heard it from too many low-level insiders in the campaigns, on the Hill, and elsewhere -- low-level insiders who work for not-so-low-level insiders -- has been for years that the Democratic primary in '08 would come down to Hillary and anti-Hillary, and the only question was who anti-Hillary would be. This view is subscribed to by those I know in the Clinton campaign, too. There are enough folks, both independents but also longtime influential Washington Democrats, who either don't like the Clintons or don't see Hillary as able to overcome the R turnout that might be engendered by her nomination to make the rise of an anti-Hillary inevitable. Of course, there are lots of people who absolutely love Hillary as well. I'm commenting on what the dynamics are, not what they should be.
Yeah, I'm an Obama supporter, but I'm also a realist. Reality is this thing's a crap shoot and will be for quite some time. If you're not sick enough of analysis by folks who live inside the Beltway Bubble by now, follow the jump to get my take.
Right now, we still have two contenders for the role of anti-Hillary. The warm and fuzzy folks who want to see the country come together and sing Kumbayah, as well as the progressive elite, are supporting Obama, the civil rights lawyer with the unique life story. The folks who are more dominated by being livid at what Bush has put us through these last long seven years are supporting Edwards, the son of the mill worker who channels their anger.
The problem for the Obama campaign (or -- I'll be charitable to the large number of Edwards supporters on dKos -- the Edwards campaign, were he to see a reversal of fortune that is unlikely but still not out of the question) will be to unify these two anti-Hillary strains and keep the other from staying at home.
Alternately, Edwards may stay in and win enough delegates to be kingmaker at the Convention. I don't see this as too far-fetched of a scenario, frankly, because the states where Hillary is polling over 50 percent are few and far between and the states where Obama is polling over 50 percent are well nigh nonexistent.
Right now, the score is Clinton 210, Obama 123, Edwards 52. It's a long way to 2,025, the magic number needed to win the nomination. There are only 1,700 delegates up on Super Tuesday. Let's be charitable to Hillary and say she gets half of them, while Obama gets 40 percent, and Edwards gets 10 percent (I give Edwards this lower total because he may well not hit the 15% threshold in some states). That moves the total to Clinton 1,060; Obama 803; Edwards 222 with about 1,990 delegates still to be awarded. Clinton needs 965 of those to get the nomination outright. That means she has to win 50 percent on Super Tuesday and 48 percent in each of the following states.
The delegate math does not support an early Hillary win and nearly rules out an early Obama win. This contest will certainly go through Texas and Ohio in March; it will probably go through Pennsylvania in April; and I give it at least a 40% chance of going all the way through the Convention in August.
That, of course, is if Edwards stays in, as he has promised to do. Frankly, there's little downside to Edwards of staying in, especially if, as the CW suggests, most of his support would go to Obama, but he also gets enough potential Hillary supporters to keep her from hitting 2,025. Then, he has a HUGE voice at the Convention. He literally gets to decide who the nominee is.
If Edwards gets out after Super Tuesday and backs Obama, Obama could take it in late March/early April. If Edwards gets out after Super Tuesday and backs Hillary, Hillary could take it in late March/early April.
We're in it for the long haul, folks, and I think the Rs are, too. This is the most interesting primary season in recent memory.
One request: Let's try to keep this diary an orderly discussion of delegate counts and try to keep it from becoming just another pie war.