Thursday, May 15, 2008

Will Obama's Seeming Inevitability Help Him as the Caucus Process Draws to a Close?

As the race for the Democratic nomination has continued into parts unknown (namely April and May), some attention has been paid in this space to the idea that a candidate gains or loses support/delegates as the caucus process moves from step to step. The posts examining the Caucus Question, as it has come to be known, have focused on the second step of these processes in locales like Texas and Nevada. Nothing, though, is official until the state conventions close in each of the 14 caucus states (Texas included).

There are 498 total delegates (not counting superdelegates and add-ons) at stake in these caucus states and the actual allocation of 286 of them (57%) remains unsettled. In some states, all (Minnesota) or part (Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming) of the allocations were settled during the first step and only the identity of those pledged delegates remains uncertain until after the conventions. For 11 of the states (North Dakota already held its state convention and Hawaii's delegates are bound by the outcome of voting in the first step.), there are still delegates on the table, ranging in number from 5 (Wyoming) to 78 (Washington) depending on the state.
AK 13 delegates
CO 33 delegates (14 in congressional districts/19 at the state convention)
ID 6 delegates
IA 16 delegates
KS 11 delegates
ME 24 delegates
NE 8 delegates
NV 25 delegates
TX 67 delegates
WA 78 delegates (51 in congressional districts/27 at the state convention)
WY 5 delegates

Will Obama's inevitability (at least in terms of how his campaign has been covered in the media since Indiana and North Carolina last week) affect the delegate distributions from those states. Obviously there is a baseline in place in each of these states based on how the voting in the original, precinct-level caucuses came out. However, as we've seen in Texas and Nevada already (see above), there has been a modest amount of movement toward Obama as the caucus process has moved to subsequent steps. With the exception of Wyoming, Iowa, Texas and Nevada, the other caucus states delivered Obama a 2:1 or 3:1 victory over Clinton. Iowa and Nevada had more candidates involved than just Clinton and Obama, so shifts in those totals as the steps progressed would be expected. By the time of the contests in Wyoming and Texas, the Clinton campaign was aware of and defending against (to some degree) Obama's organizational advantages in caucuses. In the states where he had at least a 2:1 advantage during the first step, there is only limited room for improvement.

Starting tomorrow and over the weekend, observers can begin to test whether Obama's status now as the "nearly presumptive nominee" (and you thought presumptive nominee was already too much to include in a title) will have an effect on his delegate totals from the caucus states. Colorado has three more congressional district caucuses scheduled for tomorrow and the state convention scheduled for the weekend with 14 and 19 delegates to the national convention on the line respectively. Kansas and Nevada wrap up their caucus processes with state conventions over the weekend as well. The big prize will be the Washington congressional district meetings, where 51 delegates to the national convention in Denver will be at stake.

After this weekend the undetermined caucus delegates will dwindle to 166, over a third of which is accounted for by Texas. After the upcoming contests in Kentucky and Oregon on Tuesday, those remaining caucus delegates may not matter as much if Obama reaches the majority of the pledged delegates, as his campaign is projecting.

Recent Posts:
Let the Backloading Begin: 2012 Arkansas Primary

Did IN/NC Deal Clinton a Death Blow in the Electoral College?: The Electoral College Maps (5/14/08)

20%!?! That's the Bar in West Virginia?

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