There is no doubt that Barack Obama has what the elder George Bush called “Big Mo’.” In a conference call early today, his campaign manager, Pavid Plouffe, told reporters that by their reckoning:
If current trends hold, Clinton needs to win the four remaining big states in order to stay even in the delegate race.
Obama now leads Clinton by 136 pledged delegates. Because Democrats split primary and caucus votes proportionally, Clinton would have to win the remaining contests in “blowout form” to pull even with Obama, Plouffe argued.
That includes the big showdowns on March 4 in Texas and Ohio, where Plouffe said Clinton would have to win by well over 20 points to significantly close the gap.
“We see absolutely no evidence in any of the contests remaining that that would be the case,” he said. “The math is the math.”
Following Obama’s string of victories since the weekend, Plouffe said, “We believe that we couldn’t be in a stronger position.”
A lot of people, notably my colleague Trish and, especially, Air America talkshow host Randi Rhodes, are upset at the prospect that even if Obama wins the regular delegate count, Clinton could take the nomination by having more superdelegates.
But if the trends hold, Obama will continue to win by large margins, roughly 2 to 1, while Clinton’s wins will remain narrower, roughly 55 percent to 45 percent.
Plouffe may be overstating a bit what it would take for Clinton to remain even, however. She could still win with slim majorities in Wisconsin (Feb. 19) and the four remaining big states — Ohio and Texas (March 4), Pennsylvania (April 22) and North Carolina (May 6), which would give her the momentum to win narrowly in a few small rural states like Wyoming (March 8), Guam (May 9) and Montana and South Dakota (May 20).
This would leave Obama with lopsided wins in small states including Hawaii (his home state, Feb. 19), Rhode Island (March 4), Mississippi (March 8), Kentucky and Oregon (May 20) and Puerto Rico (June 7).
Trends suggest otherwise, however. If Clinton does not win both Ohio (161 delegates) and Texas (228 delegates) on March 4, it will be harder for her to win Pennsylvania (158 delegates) and North Carolina (115 delegates).
She has weaknesses in both of the latter. If the Philadelphia suburbs trend with their Delmarva neighbors instead of New Jerseyites, she might not be able to make up the difference in Pittsburgh and the central region. North Carolina could well tally up more like Virginia than Tennessee. Tar Heel Democratic demographics skew toward Obama. African-Americans comprise roughly 30 percent of the state, and college-educated professionals dominate in its two largest metro areas, Charlotte and Raleigh.
For Clinton, it appears that it all comes down to Ohio and and Texas in three weeks. Otherwise, the contest is Obama’s to lose.