More On A Hillary Comeback

With the help of the invaluable Green Papers, I made some calculations in a best-case scenario for Hillary Clinton in the Wisconsin, Ohio, and Texas primaries. I assumed that Clinton won statewide in each case, and that Obama carried only congressional districts (or in Texas, state Senate districts) dominated by upscale white voters and/or black voters. This is an especially optimistic assumption in Wisconsin, where Clinton currently trails Obama by 4 or 5 percent in public polls. The results are as follows: a 44-30 delegate edge in Wisconsin, an 83-58 delegate edge in Ohio, and an 82-41 delegate edge in Texas. Overall this is an 80-delegate advantage, based (again I emphasize) on optimistic assumptions.

This would be enough to erase the current 58-delegate edge Obama has in total delegates according to Real Clear Politics. But not enough to overcome the 137-delegate edge he has among "pledged delegates," that is, those chosen in caucuses and primaries. And it doesn't account for the fact that Texas on March 4 will also have caucuses to select another 67 delegates. The Obama campaign has swamped the Clinton campaign in almost all the caucuses and probably has far more in the way of organization in Texas's 254 counties than the Clinton campaign does.

What about the other post-February contests? Here's my brief take on each:

--Rhode Island primary, March 4. Clinton has done well with downscale Catholic voters, which accounts for most of the Rhode Island electorate. More like Massachusetts, which she carried, than Connecticut, which she lost.

--Vermont primary, March 4. Obama all the way.

--Wyoming county caucuses, March 8. If it's anything like Idaho, Obama.

--Mississippi primary, March 11. Mississippi has the highest black percentage of any state, which suggests Obama will win. But if, as in Alabama and Louisiana, a fairly large number of whites choose to participate, then Clinton could make it competitive.

--Democrats Abroad caucuses, March 15. I have to think Obama carries these worldly types.

--Pennsylvania primary, April 22. The Pennsylvania numbers look a lot like the Ohio numbers.

--Guam territorial convention, May 3 (tentative date). No clue.

--Indiana primary, May 6. 9 percent black, 4 percent Hispanic. The Democratic primary electorate looks a lot like Ohio's. Could be favorable to Clinton.

--North Carolina primary, May 6. 22 percent black, 5 percent Hispanic. The Democratic primary electorate is liable to be 30-35 percent black, possibly more, which is favorable to Obama. So is the fact that some of the Democratic primary electorate (especially in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle, less so in Clinton) is upscale and culturally liberal. So half the electorate is tilted his way. This looks like Virginia with a considerably smaller Northern Virginia: Obama country, but by a considerably lesser margin.

--West Virginia primary, May 13. Downscale, elderly, and overwhelmingly white, the primary electorate here presumably favors Clinton.

--Kentucky primary, May 20. The Democratic primary electorate here is not as downscale, elderly, and overwhelmingly white as West Virginia's, but it comes fairly close. Favorable to Clinton.

--Oregon primary, May 20. Obama won't likely win here by as much as he did in the Washington caucuses, but he's likely to win.

--Montana primary, June 3. An interesting question. Obama won't be as strong here as in Western state caucuses.

--South Dakota primary, June 3. Former Senator Tom Daschle is actively supporting Obama, but the state demographically looks more pro-Clinton.

--Puerto Rico caucuses, June 7. I have written on these elsewhere. An interesting continuing tale.

My bottom line take: The turf looks fairly favorable to Clinton, provided she wins Ohio and Texas March 4. Not favorable enough, perhaps, for her to overtake Obama in "ledged" delegates, but enough to keep the overall delegate count excruciatingly close, unless the superdelegates start cascading to Obama. (Maybe they have: Congressman John Lewis has evidently switched.) But if Clinton loses either Ohio or Texas, that's a sign that the ground thereafter will be less favorable to her. Losing Ohio would suggest she can't carry Pennsylvania or Indiana. Losing Texas suggests she can't carry Mississippi, North Carolina, West Virginia, or Kentucky. Losing either probably means the superdelegate cascade starts in torrents, and she falls well behind in total delegate count. In which case her candidacy is probably effectively over.

And even if she wins Ohio and Texas, she's still not likely, I think (no, I haven't done the delegate arithmetic yet), to accumulate enough "pledged" delegates to win without an edge in superdelegates, and perhaps without getting the Florida and, more problematically, Michigan delegations seated. But I certainly don't see her quitting in these circumstances.

By Michael Barone