Obama to Clinton: You Can't Catch Me

| Wed Feb. 13, 2008 1:10 PM EST

David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign manager, was not gloating the morning after. But he did have a message for Hillary Clinton's camp: you can't catch us.

That is, in delegates awarded via primaries and caucuses.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call on Wednesday morning--after Barack Obama swept Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia by supersized margins--Plouffe was low-key in manner but confident in substance. He maintained that, by his campaign's number, Obama now had a lead of 136 delegates in the race for pledged delegates (that excludes superdelegates). He termed it an "enormous" advantage and noted that Clinton could not close this gap without running up a string of "blowout" wins in the coming primaries, including big states (such as delegate-rich Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania) and other states. "Even the most creative math does not get her back to even in pledged delegates," he insisted.

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Spin from a front-runner? Plouffe's math seemed more right than wrong. Under the Democratic Party rules, delegates are awarded proportionally. If Obama's streak comes to an end and he places a close second to Clinton in most of the upcoming contests, she will not net a great many delegates. Clinton will have to beat Obama by large margins in Ohio, Texas and elsewhere to catch up. Plouffe claimed that the Obama campaign has already created a "buffer" in the race for pledged delegates, asserting that "it is unlikely it will be eroded....The math is the math."

The numbers are certainly clear on one point: neither candidate is likely to win enough pledged delegates to reach the magic number needed to snag the nomination. So if Plouffe is correct, the issue becomes, what will the nearly 800 superdelegates do? Could Clinton orchestrate a come-from-behind victory by coaxing a majority of them to back her? Asked about this possibility, Plouffe replied, "We believe the pledged delegate leader will be the nominee." He said not much else on the subject.

"We couldn't be in a stronger position," Plouffe remarked. That's not much of an exaggeration (though winning California would have put Obama in a stronger spot). As of now, Obama has won more states than Clinton, the onetime favorite, and more delegates. In politics, when you're in the lead, spin is easy to do. You can simply tell the truth. Shortly after Plouffe was done, political reporters received an email announcing that Clinton officials would be holding their own conference call with reporters to discuss the "state of the race" and their strategy for victory. But Clinton's new campaign manager would not be participating in the call. After all, she had only been on the job for two days.

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