Citing the Delegate Math, the Obama Camp Tells Clinton: You Will “Fail Miserably”


In a conference call with reporters on Friday morning, David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s campaign manager, had a stark message for the Clinton camp: You will “fail miserably.” He was referring to Hillary Clinton’s attempt to overtake Obama in the pledged delegate count.

Plouffe maintained that even if Clinton wins Ohio and Texas she will not rack up much of a net gain in delegates. In Ohio, for instance, if the winner of that Democratic primary triumphs by 5 percent, he or she might only pick up 3 or so more delegates than the loser, thanks to the proportional awarding of delegates. Plouffe ran through the tough math Clinton faces. Currently, he said, Obama has a lead of 162 delegates. (The count at Realclearpolitics.com has Obama up by 155.) If Clinton wins close contests in both Ohio and Texas–and polls now suggest these elections will be close–she might cut Obama’s lead to 150 or so pledged delegates. After March 4, there are 611 pledged delegates up for grabs in the subsequent primaries and caucuses. Consequently, Clinton would have to win over 60 percent of those delegates to catch up. And to do so, she would have to score a series of super-majority wins in the remaining states. Plouffe called it a “huge task” for Clinton to erase Obama’s pledged delegate lead. And he noted that the Obama campaign could end up netting more delegates from the upcoming contests in Mississippi and Wyoming than Clinton might gain on March 4, should she place first in both Ohio and Texas. If Obama’s pledged delegate lead doesn’t precipitously drop to 100 in the next few contests, Plouffe asserted, the Clintonites “simply don’t have any avenue to the nomination.”

Sure, this is spin. But sometimes spin can be true, and the math, at this point, does favor Obama.

In the call, Plouffe also responded to the latest Clinton ad. That spot shows children dozing in bed, and a baritonal narrator somberly says, “It’s three A.M. and your children are safe and asleep.” But the phone is ringing in the White House: “something is happening in the world.” The unseen narrator asks, “Who do you want answering the phone?”

The intent is obvious: convince Democratic voters that Obama is not experienced enough to protect their kids if nuclear missiles are about to be launched at them. The always-dry Plouffe–as he is paid to do–dismissed the ad with a clever quip. Clinton “already had her red-phone moment,” he said: “her decision to let George Bush invade Iraq…. It’s about what you say when you answer that phone.”

While Plouffe was talking to reporters–and declining to state how much money Obama had raised in February (when Clinton bagged a whopping $35 million)–the Clinton campaign sent out an email: its top guns would be holding a conference call in the afternoon.

UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune reports that a fundraiser for the Obama campaign says that in February Obama collected $50 million in contributions.

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  • David Corn

    David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, Showdown, Hubris (with Isikoff), and The Lies of George W. Bush, as well as the e-book, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.