Let’s Do Some Delegate Math

Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter points out that the delegate math that was already difficult for Hillary Clinton got more difficult after Ohio and Texas, because she made up a very small portion of the delegate deficit and now has fewer states in which to make her comeback. Alter runs down a very Clinton-friendly hypothetical:

Let’s assume that on Saturday in Wyoming, Clinton’s March 4 momentum gives her an Ohio-style 10-point win, confounding every expectation. Next Tuesday in Mississippi, where African-Americans play a big role in the Democratic primary, she shocks the political world by again winning 55-45.

Then on April 22, the big one—Pennsylvania—and it’s a Clinton blowout: 60-40, with Clinton picking up a whopping 32 delegates. She wins both of Guam’s two delegates on May 3 and Indiana’s proximity to Illinois does Obama no good on May 6. The Hoosiers go for Clinton 55-45 and the same day brings another huge upset in a heavily African-American state. Enough blacks desert Obama to give North Carolina to Hillary in another big win, 55-45, netting her seven more delegates.

May 13 in West Virginia is no kinder to Obama, and he loses by double digits, netting Clinton two delegates. Another 60-40 landslide on May 20 in Kentucky nets her 11 more. The same day brings Oregon, a classic Obama state. Ooops! He loses there 52-48. Clinton wins by 10 in Montana and South Dakota on June 3 and the scheduled primary season ends on June 7 in Puerto Rico with another big Viva Clinton! Clinton pulls off a 60-40 landslide, giving her another 11 delegates.

…this fanciful calculation gives Hillary the lead, right? Actually, it makes the score 1,625 to 1,584 for Obama. A margin of 39 pledged delegates may not seem like much, but remember, the chances of Obama losing state after state by 20-point margins are slim to none.

But here’s why Clinton is staying in this thing. If she makes a run that is even in the same ballpark as the one Alter is describing, she can go to superdelegates and say, “The American people have rethought their choice. Clearly we’ve won the second half of this campaign.” And she’d be right. Superdelegates would likely go to her en masse, pushing her over the magical 2025 number. Obama’s slim pledged delegate lead be damned.

And if she wins do-overs in Michigan and Florida, that becomes an even easier argument to make.