How Obama Can Win the Democratic Nomination

Note: this was written before John Edwards dropped out of the Presidential race and before John McCain won the Republican nomination and is no longer relevant.  Obama would be better off selecting a VP who has extensive foreign policy or military experience to counter the advantage McCain has in those areas.  Bill Richardson would be a good choice since he was UN Ambassador and has done some diplomacy work apart from that post.  He would also help Obama do better among Latino voters.

There are 6 days left until Super Tuesday when 22 states are having Democratic primaries and caucuses and will select 1,688 “pledged delegates” who commit to vote for specific candidates in the first vote at the Democratic Convention in August. Currently, Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls in most of the Super Tuesday states with Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois being an exception. So, one might think that things look dim for Senator Obama and that he will have a very hard time getting enough delegates to win the nomination in August even with the Kennedys campaigning for him.

However, it is important to keep in mind that all states award delegates in the Democratic primaries and caucuses based on a formula that measures the percentages of the vote that candidates get in each congressional district and statewide. This means that Obama and Edwards will both get delegates in most states even if Clinton wins most of them. While the formulas are complicated and vary from state to state, it is likely that Obama and Edwards will get delegates roughly in proportion to the percentage of the vote they get in each state. While Clinton leads in most of the Super Tuesday states, if one adds the polling numbers for Obama and Edwards, they are more competitive with her in many states. For instance, in California, the average of multiple polls for California on realclearpolitics.com shows Clinton having 44.2%, Obama having 32.2% and Edwards having 11.0%. Combining Obama’s and Edwards’ numbers gives them 43.2% which is only 1.0% less than Clinton.

Now, it is entirely possible that Clinton will not have the 2,025 delegates needed to lock in the nomination at the convention. While many people have talked about the possibility of a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket (with the latter being much less likely), another possibility would be for Obama and Edwards to combine their delegates and draw off some of Clinton’s delegates (after the first round of voting) to achieve the required majority. Since Obama will most likely have substantially more delegates than Edwards, one could expect Obama to lead the ticket with Edwards once again accepting the nomination for Vice President.  Given the facts that Obama and Edwards have both focused their campaigns on changing Washington, agree on most issues, and have not been attacking each other nearly as much as Obama and Clinton have done, this pairing is actually much more likely to work than a Clinton-Obama ticket.

I believe the Obama-Edwards team would probably get more delegates if they announced that they were joining forces before Super Tuesday. While some voters who like Edwards will continue to vote for him, many others probably feel that he cannot win the nomination at this point and might shift their vote to Clinton or Obama. If they announce that they will run together as a team before Super Tuesday, one could expect most Edwards supporters to vote for Obama.  Additionally,  if all Edwards supporters voted for Obama, the total number of delegates that the Obama-Edwards ticket received would probably be higher than if they continue to run separately.  This is due to the fact that candidates must exceed a 15% threshold in each state in order to get pledged delegates. If Edwards continues to run on his own, he could quite possibly fail to meet this threshold in many districts; but together, the Obama-Edwards ticket would probably easily exceed the threshold.

In conclusion, Obama could potentially win the Democratic nomination even if Clinton beats him in most of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses by teaming with Edwards. However, their chance of getting enough delegates would be higher if they announced their joint ticket before Super Tuesday.

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