Texas Delivers As Predicted

In this blog on February 25, exactly one week before the Texas primary, I extrapolated from a Washington Post/ABC News poll and from the demographic makeup of the 31 state Senate districts the number of delegates per district that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would win. The poll showed Clinton ahead 48 to 47 percent, and my estimate was that she would win the delegates elected by district 64 to 62.

Those numbers, as it turned out, were not too far off. Clinton carried the state 51 to 47 percent; her delegate lead in the 31 state Senate districts was 65 to 61. I got the count wrong in five districts, with the errors nearly canceling one another out. My mistakes:

Senatorial District 3 (East Texas): I had it two to two. Clinton carried it 60 to 35 percent (with 3 percent for John Edwards). That gave Clinton 62.96 percent of the two-candidate vote, just over the 62.5 percent she needed for a three-to-one delegate split.

Senatorial District 14 (Austin): This district elected eight delegates, more than any other, and I had it six to two, Obama. The university community vote was heavily for Clinton, but apparently there are still a fair number of feminists of a certain age in Austin, and Obama carried it by only 62 to 37 percent, for a five-to-three delegate edge. He needed 68.7 percent for a six-to-two split.

Senatorial District 22 (Waco and Johnson and Ellis counties just south of Fort Worth): This district has three delegates. I thought Obama would carry it and therefore win a two-to-one delegate edge. Waco's McLennan County was just about even, as were Coryell County to the west (which went for Obama) and Falls County to the south. The black percentages in those three counties are 16, 23, and 28, respectively, and I think that's why I called the district for Obama. But Johnson County, just south of Fort Worth, came in at 69 percent for Clinton, and she carried the district 56 to 42 percent, for a two-to-one delegate edge.

Senatorial District 25 (the terrain between Austin and San Antonio): I thought it would go four to two for Clinton. This is the one district where I got things most wrong. Austinites seem to have spread out beyond Travis County (plus, the district includes part of Travis County), and Obama carried Hays, Guadalupe, and Kendall counties and ran only marginally behind in Comal. In addition, the district covers part of San Antonio's Bexar County, around Randolph Air Force Base. Areas with military installations tended to be good Obama territory: He carried Bell County, which includes most of giant Fort Hood, by a solid margin. My working hypothesis: Most military men and women and their dependents are Republicans, but a considerable proportion of the Democrats among them are black. Anyway, the district went 54 to 45 percent for Obama. He came close to winning the 56.25 percent of the two-candidate vote, which would have given him a four-to-two edge and have left me two delegates off. But not close enough: The delegates were split three to three.

Senatorial District 26 (San Antonio): I thought Clinton would have a three-to-one delegate advantage. She won the district 61 to 38 percent, which gave her 62.0 percent of the two-candidate vote, just short of the 62.5 percent she needed for a three-to-one advantage. So the delegates were split two to two. As you can see, in Senatorial Districts 2 and 26, I was very close to being right; a slight shift of the percentages would have made my predictions spot on. I was further away in Senatorial District 14, and I miscalculated the political balance, marginally or more, in Senatorial Districts 22 and 25. Not bad for a prediction, and I suspect the delegate counters of the two campaigns were similarly close to target. Incidentally, this illustrates the inanity of the Democrats' proportional representation rules. In a district with an odd number of delegates, winning makes a difference But in a district with an even number of delegates, a candidate needs a big supermajority to win any delegate advantage at all: 62.5 percent of the two-candidate vote in a four-delegate district, 58.33 percent in a six-delegate district, 56.25 percent in an eight-delegate district. Worst of all: 75 percent in a two-delegate district. There's the raw material here for a lawsuit and for intense deliberations at the next Democratic delegate selection commission meetings.

By the way, Clinton's 3.70-point margin in the two-candidate popular vote yielded her just a 3.16-point margin in delegates. Representation systems usually award a premium to the vote winner. This Democratic system gave it to the loser. And it wasn't just because the black-dominated districts had more delegates than the Hispanic-dominated districts (because many Hispanics voted Republican or didn't vote Democratic in the 2004 presidential and 2006 gubernatorial general elections, while almost all black voters voted Democratic). That contributed to but was not the whole cause of Clinton's underperformance in delegates. The three districts where the turnout was heavily black (13 and 15 in Houston, 23 in Dallas) gave Obama an 11-to-six delegate advantage. But the seven districts where the turnout was heavily Hispanic (6 in Houston, 26 in San Antonio, and 19, 20, 21, 27, and 29 in the Rio Grande Valley) gave Clinton a 17-to-eight delegate advantage. Thus, Clinton had a 23-to-19 delegate advantage in these "minority" districts.

In nonminority districts with even numbers of delegates, Clinton won seven districts and Obama six. Clinton got only a 14-to-12 delegate edge in her seven districts and that only because, as noted, she barely made the threshold for a third delegate in District 3. Obama got a 16-to-14 delegate edge in his six districts and barely missed getting a 17-to-14 edge, which he would have done in the six-delegate District 25 if, as noted, he had just gotten a slightly higher percentage of the two-candidate vote. Clinton carried four nonminority districts with odd numbers of delegates and got an eight-to-four edge in them; Obama carried three nonmminority districts with odd numbers of delegates and got an eight-to-five edge in them (two of them had five delegates; all of the Clinton districts in this category had three). So the nonminority districts with even numbers of delegates produced a 28-to-28 delegate split, while the nonminority districts with odd numbers of delegates produced a 13-to-12 advantage for Clinton.

The Clinton campaign complains that most of Obama's national delegate advantage comes from caucus states. That's right. A chart in this story in Saturday's Washington Post shows the delegate advantage Obama has gotten in small states (eight of 10 of which are caucus states): a 68-delegate advantage (132 to 64) when his total lead among primary and caucus-selected delegates is by the campaign's calculation 109 delegates (1,571 to 1,462). Subtract the two primary states, and it's still a 62-delegate advantage (114 to 52), and that's more than half his overall delegate lead. But in complaining that the caucuses are somehow undemocratic or unfair, the Clinton people are missing the mark. After all, they knew the caucuses were scheduled and had time and money to prepare for them. They were woefully unprepared for earlier caucuses and got clocked in delegates; in Wyoming, where they seem to have spent as much time and energy as the Obama campaign, they appear likely to have a delegate deficit of only seven to five, as compared to 15 to three in Idaho, 14 to nine in Utah, and 16 to eight in Nebraska. Their real complaint is with the proportional representation system, which, as in Texas, miniaturizes their victories and gives them virtually no delegate premium--indeed, a delegate penalty--for winning.

Obama's caucus advantage can be seen by using, realclearpolitics.com's delegate count by states. It has bama's national delegate edge as 1,588 to 1,465, with a 242-to-210 Clinton edge among superdelegates and a 1,378-to-1,223 Obama edge among "pledged" delegates (chosen in caucuses and primaries). In the 18 caucus contests (including Texas's caucuses, which apparently went 31 to 27 for Obama, nullifying Clinton's 65-to-61 advantage in primary delegates), it has Obama leading 321 to 176. If that's right, Obama is ahead only 1,057 to 1,047 in primary states.

By Michael Barone