Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: email@example.com
The math is very clear: the Democratic nomination will be decided at the convention by superdelegates.
The math is wrong: The Democratic party will not allow it to go that long. Someone will bow out between now and April.
While great spectacle for political junkies, a nominating convention replete with superdelegates and backroom deals would embarrass the party and demoralize the party rank-and-file, regardless of whether Obama or Clinton triumphed. The party can't---won't---suffer the appearance that the millions of votes cast in state primaries and caucuses are trumped by a couple hundred party big wigs.
Letting the superdelegates decide the race would also allow McCain and the GOP to make plenty of hay. Eliminating delegates from Florida and Michigan has already been a great stumble, one that risks the always-close Sunshine State in the fall, no less. Effectively disenfranchising the pledged delegates from the rest of the nation would be fatal come November.
Retroactively allowing Florida and Michigan's delegates is also unsatisfactory, as Obama supporters would never accept results from states in which their man didn't campaign; likewise, do-over caucuses in Florida and Michigan would be chaos (witness Nebraska's state of emergency), and Clinton supporters could hardly grant a second chance in a state that their woman has already won.
Howard Dean and the rest must be hoping against hope that one candidate--presumably Obama, given his likely advantage in the states that vote through February 19th--will roll up enough momentum between now and March for the other to gracefully bow out. If Clinton hangs on through March 4th and wins Texas and Ohio (though Ohio looks less likely these days), the party is in a real pickle.
And none of this can be lost on party officials. Though the how remains opaque, one candidate--likely Clinton--will cede the race before April. Math be damned.
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