There is only one thing the public can be certain of regarding the Democratic presidential nomination: without a miracle, there will be a brokered convention. Senator Barack Obama was leading Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the delegate count going into the Super Tuesday II primary elections on March 4. Obama held 1,193 primary delegates to Clinton’s 1,038. The status of the super delegates is meaningless because their pledges today may not carry any meaning come the Democratic nominating convention in Denver during the last week of August.
A Democratic candidate needs to reach a minimum of 2,025 delegates to clinch the nomination outright. Clinton will not reach that figure before the last primary election is held in Puerto Rico on June 7. Neither will Obama. The Illinois senator needs 832 more delegates to reach the magic number of 2,025. There are only 981 remaining primary delegates that are up for grabs. Three hundred seventy delegates will be decided on March 4 and 611 will be divvied up across 12 primaries between March 8 and June 7. Obama would have to win an astonishing 85% of the remaining 981 delegates in order to claim the Democratic nomination outright. There are no winner-take-all primaries for the Democrats. Obama will never get the needed 832 delegates. He may fall short of reaching 2,025 delegates by as many as 250.
This means that neither Obama nor Clinton will tally the needed 2,025 delegates when the primary election season is completed. The pair will have eleven weeks between Puerto Rico’s primary election on June 7 and the convening of the Democratic convention on August 25 to persuade super delegates to support their candidacy. A lot can happen in 11 weeks. There will be horse trading, influence peddling and cajoling. It will be a real knife fight to the end. Layer on top of this real-world events. Everything from the economy, Iraq, terrorism and damaging revelations of the ties between Obama and Antoin “Tony” Rezko, the land developer currently under federal indictment, could greatly influence the super delegates’ commitments. Still, the only date that really matters for the super delegates is the day they cast their ballots in late August.
Complicating the matter for Obama is the status of the 313 primary delegates Clinton picked up in the Michigan and Florida primaries. The Democratic Party has stated it would not seat the Michigan and Florida delegates because those two states moved up their primary dates without national party blessing. But will national party leaders really not seat the Michigan and Florida delegates? Not hardly.
National Democratic leaders realize their nominee must capture at least one and possibly both Michigan and Florida if their candidate is to win in November. Party leaders cannot afford to disenfranchise the voters in those two states and give them a reason to stay home in November. On top of this, Clinton will not let the status of the Michigan and Florida delegates pass without a fight. She could turn to the courts for relief.
In the end, the remaining 16 primaries are simply a beauty contest. The final competition for the Democratic nomination starts after June 7. It will not end with any certainty until the last week in August.