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Posts published in “Day: May 7, 2008”

The meaning of the 20th

We're among those thinking the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination is strategically over - all that's needed is for the next steps, over the next few weeks, to play out. (Actually, we've thought that for a couple of months; only the precise percentages in specific contests, not the overall structure and dynamic of the race, has been in doubt since early March.)

So what does May 20, Oregon primary election day, mean in that context?

Spokesmen for the Barack Obama campaign have said they see it as a big milestone. And it may be, to a point. The Democratic procedure for apportioning delegates, giving both major candidate similar numbers of delegates out of each state whether they win or lose (Pennsylvania did not massively wipe Obama in the delegate count, nor did North Carolina cost Hillary Clinton much margin). Rather, once one candidate early on was able to establish a majority of delegate votes, that majority would become almost impregnable thereafter if both candidates had comparable strength. And since early March, that scenario - no matter all the hoorah in the headlines - has been playing out smoothly. In the next few weeks it will play out again. At this point, Obama has collected enough pledged (elected) delegates that he needs just 38 more to have collected more than half of all pledged delegates - a major marker other delegates are watching closely.

After next Tuesday's election in West Virginia (which Obama likely will lose decisively) he probably will gain another 10 or so delegates. Week after that comes Kentucky (which Clinton will probably win) and Oregon (probable for Obama), which between them should yield to Obama another 45 or so delegates. Which crosses the line.

This whole thing is psychological, though; Obama will need to continue trudging on after that. And getting the majority of pledged delegates will not translate to the nomination: He will need additional superdelegate votes for that.

But after May 20, those superdelegates may become easier to get. And that may be a mark the Obama forces will want to celebrate.