Mississippi Primary Unlikely To Boost Obama Significantly

Even a big win won't provide much more distance between him and Clinton

If the conventional wisdom is correct, Barack Obama will be celebrating another victory in a southern primary Tuesday night.

Obama leads Hillary Clinton in Mississippi's Democratic presidential contest by 58 percent to 34 percent, according to the latest American Research Group survey of likely voters. If he wins solidly, as expected, Obama will collect a majority of the 33 delegates at stake, but Clinton will garner a healthy share because the delegate allocation will be proportional, not winner take all.

So the pattern of the Democratic race won't change, with neither candidate able to mount a decisive surge week to week. Obama had 1,578 delegates to Clinton's 1,468 on Monday, according to the Associated Press. It will take 2,025 to win the nomination.

Clinton campaigned in Mississippi last week and her husband, the former president, stumped through the state over the weekend. Obama was scheduled to campaign in Columbus and Jackson Monday. He is hoping to capitalize on his enormous popularity among African-American voters, who will probably amount to half the state's Democratic electorate, and young people. Obama won the Wyoming caucuses Saturday, gaining seven delegates to Clinton's five. Earlier, he easily won southern primaries in South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia.

Clinton's advisers are playing down the importance of Mississippi and are focusing on Pennsylvania, which holds its primary April 22 and where she leads. The state will award 158 delegates.

The problem for the two Democrats is that neither is likely to get a nominating majority from pledged delegates who are chosen in primaries and caucuses. This means the nomination is likely to be decided by about 800 "superdelegates," mostly elected officials, party leaders, and activists, and quite possibly by a "revote" of Democrats in Florida and Michigan with a combined total of 313 delegates. Earlier primaries in those two states didn't count toward awarding delegates because the contests were held too early, violating party rules. Now momentum appears to be building for mail-in primaries in Florida and Michigan, although a big question remains--who pays for the redo?

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean sees the mail-in option as increasingly appealing. "Every voter gets a ballot in the mail," he said on CBS's Face the Nation Sunday. "It's comprehensive. You get to vote if you're in Iraq or a nursing home. It's not a bad way to do this."

By Kenneth T. Walsh