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For Democrats The Long Battle Begins and Party Leaders Worry

By Susan Duclos     Mar 5, 2008 in Politics
American politics is a confusing issue for many and the primaries last night in four states has managed to muddy the waters of comprehension even more. Hillary Clinton took three out of the four states, yet she still trails in delegates by a large margin.
The battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has had Democratic party insiders and leaders worried for a while now and Hillary Clinton's ability to break Obama's 11 state winning streak by taking Ohio, Rhode Island and by a smaller margin Texas, in the primaries last night, have party leaders more worried than they were before last night.
To explain why the party leaders are fretting today, one has to understand how the political process works in the US.
Lets start with a quick explanation of what a delegate and superdelegate is:
The Democratic party has two types of delegates, pledged and superdelegates.
A pledged delegate is elected or chosen, by primaries and caucuses) on the state and local level with the understanding that they will support a specific candidate in the Democratic convention. There are a total of 3,253 pledged delegates for the Democratic party.
A superdelegate is usually a Democratic member of Congress, Governors, national committee members or party leaders, such as a former president or vice president. There are 796 superdelegates for the Democratic party.
For the Republicans, the majority of states are what is called "winner takes all", so when the Republican candidate receives a win in a state's primary, he receives all of the delegates for that states.
Not so for the Democratic party, their rules are different. The Democrats get a proportional number of delegates awarded to them according to the proportions of the vote.
To make it simple, if a Democratic candidate receives 40 percent of the vote, they are awarded roughly 40 percent of the delegates for that state.
In here lies the problem for the party.
To become the Democratic nominee for president, a candidate must be nominated by a majority of the delegates, which in this case is 2,035 out of the total of 4,049.
before going into the primaries yesterday, Obama's pledged delegate count, using the Associated Press delegate figures, was 1,187 and Clinton's was 1,035.
Because Democrats allocate most of their delegates proportionally, the loser in a close race receives almost as many delegates as the winner, so although Clinton won three of the four states, it did not bring her much closer to closing the gap between herself and Obama.
The primaries in Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio and Texas:
Last night Hillary Clinton won the majorities in Rhode Island and Ohio by a good margin and Texas by a smaller margin and Barack Obama won the majority in Vermont.
Many are speculating as to the reasons that Clinton was able to break Obama's 11 state winning streak, blaming it on negative ads against Obama, the scandals that have plagued him in the last week or a variety of other reasons, but none of that matters much when one simply looks at the delegate math.
Democratic leaders fretting after Clinton's wins:
On Tuesday, the former first lady won Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island, losing only Vermont. Enough to stay in the race, she said, and go "all the way."
That's not what many party leaders wanted to hear.
According to a Democratic strategist and one of the 796 party leaders known as superdelegates, Donna Brazile, "Despite Obama's impressive victories in February, Clinton's comeback is based on sowing political seeds of doubt," she goes on to say that for Obama to clinch the nomination, "he must anticipate the worst attacks ever."
She is not talking about attacks from the Republican nominee, John McCain against Obama, but from within her own party, via Hillary Clinton, which party leaders understand will lead to Obama having to go negative and attack Clinton in return.
This is verified by a senior Obama adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity that confirms that "Obama's team will respond to Tuesday's results by going negative on Clinton _ raising questions about her tax records and the source of donations to the Clinton presidential library, among skeletons in the Clintons' past."
As the article explains, Clinton could go on to win, by large margins, the remaining primaries and caucuses, which include b ut are not limited to, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky plus narrow victories in Guam, Indiana, North Carolina, Montana and South Dakota, and she still would be trailing Obama in the pledged delegate counts.
According to another Democratic strategist, Jim Jordan, who initially ran the 2004 primary campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), "Her durability is impressive if not astonishing, but she is still looking at some pretty cold, hard numbers in the race. She's running out of time, she's running out of space."
He goes on to describe the chances of Clinton winning the nomination, with the delegate numbers being what they are as, "impossible, really."
The wins for Clinton last night has guaranteed that Hillary Clinton will not withdraw from the race and is promising to stay in until the end, to which she told supporters in Columbus, Ohio, last night, that she was "going all the way," further stating, "Keep on watching. Together, we're going to make history."
Which brings the problem right back to the superdelegates and who they will vote for because none of them are required to vote for either candidate.
The problem for the Democratic party right now can be summed up with the words from superdelegate Donna Brazile, who believes the battle between Obama and Clinton is hurting the party as a whole, saying that one candidate is trailing in delegates and the other candidate has a "glass jaw".
"Like that old saying, it ain't over until the fat lady howls," Brazile said. "Seems like no one knows if she can still sing in this clutter."
The battle for the Democratic nomination for presidency has just begun in earnest and the party leaders are worried that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will tear the party apart from within and as the Associated press article states "the winner of that fight would be John McCain, who sealed the GOP nomination Tuesday night and would love nothing more than fratricide among the Democrats. He could use the time to raise money, energize conservative voters and sharpen his general election message."
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