Up until now, the Obama campaign has understandably resisted efforts to seat Florida and Michigan, but looking at the rough delegate count, I’m starting to wonder if that’s a mistake. For months, there has been a logjam in the Democratic race because Clinton cannot realistically catch Obama among pledged delegates, but Obama still needs superdelegates to put him over the top. This reality has allowed Clinton to stay in the race in the hope that she can convince the superdelegates that Obama is unelectable. But seating Florida and Michigan, while eating into Obama’s delegate lead, would change these dynamics, and put Obama in the driver’s seat to clinch the nomination without having to worry about the quirky superdelegates.
(To be clear, all of the following tabulations are sort of back of the envelope meant to test this theory, and shouldn’t be taken precisely.)
If you look at the the RealClearPolitics count, Obama is about 300 delegates away from winning the nomination. If he and Clinton roughly split the delegates in the remaining primaries (this is being charitable to Clinton), he’ll end the primary season about 100 delegates short of victory, thus requiring superdelegates.
But Florida would have had 210 delegates were it not penalized. Let’s say for the sake of discussion, those were allocated based on the popular vote. Clinton, who won 50 percent of the vote, would get 110 delegates, and Obama, with his 33 percent, would gain 70. (Give Edwards the remaining delegates.)
If you proceed to Michigan, the most favorable settlement for Clinton, Marc Ambinder notes, would be “the 73-to-55 delegate split that the Clinton campaign would obtain from the results of the primary, with almost all of the uncommitted delegates being pledged to Obama.”
While both of these actions would cut into Obama’s delegate lead, he’d still have a cushion of about 70 delegates over Clinton going into the remaining primaries. But more importantly, he would gain around 120 delegates, putting himself in the position to win the nomination without having to worry about superdelegates (by my rough calculations he can do so by winning around 43 percent of the delegates in the remaining contests).
Not only would taking such action allow Obama to get a clean win, it would enable the Florida and Michigan delegations to be seated, allow him to take the high road, and take away a major argument from Clinton. Of course, once she realizes this, Clinton may do a total about face, and suddenly protest counting Florida and Michigan, but then that would just be great theater.
UPDATE: Quin notes that if the Florida and Michigan were seated, by expanding the overall universe of delegates, it would raise the threshhold Obama would have to meet to gain the nomination, thus changing the calculations above.