Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Today Might Be Interesting

For weeks, the conventional wisdom has been that Obama would finish the race strong with big wins in South Dakota and Montana. That would emphatically close out his campaign, and probably provide real encouragement for Hillary to bow out gracefully. As far as I can tell, this was based primarily on old polls and the results in neighboring states. The neighboring states really don't tell us much however, because they were caucuses, in which Obama has generally overperformed.

But now, the Clintons may see a gleam of light at the end of the tunnel. The total number of delegates involved isn't much. There are 31 up for grabs, not enough to catch Hillary up (she's currently about 120 pledged delegates behind) even if she won all of them. But the polling is looking different. ARG has Hillary up by 26 points in South Dakota, and Obama only leading by 4 in Montana (caution: ARG tends to produce extremes.) This is the only real polling that has been done in either state in a while.

So what would a split decision, or worse (for Obama) a double win for Hillary, mean? Montana's total population is around a million people, South Dakota has about 800,000. That means that, assuming the results are relatively close to ARG's numbers, Clinton will probably gain on Obama in the popular vote, though she'll only net a few delegates. Right now, if you estimate the results from the caucus states that didn't release official results (which is probably unfair to Obama since he won those states), and give Obama all the uncommitted Michigan votes (which is unfair to Hillary since many of those voters would have chosen Richardson or Edwards), Obama leads by a slim 44,000 votes. That means that Hillary, who is already touting her "popular vote" lead by not counting the uncommitted Michigan voters at all, might end up with a VERY SLIM majority no matter how you slice the votes. Coupled with her fairly convincing argument that she is the better candidate to face John McCain, I wonder if such a result might encourage her to take it all the way to the convention floor. After all, even if Obama hits the "magic number" of delegates in the next few days, none of those delegates are actually obligated to vote for him based on anything but their word (and Hillary has seen how much some of their commitments are actually worth).

Of course, real life is usually far less entertaining that that. Obama will probably win both states, Hillary will bow out and agree to help Obama reunite the party for November. But for today, I'll keep dreaming.

**Just in**
As I was about to hit the "post" button, the news flash came in that Obama has reached the necessary number of delegates. Just remember, the current delegate totals are a chimera. Many of the states have not finished their caucus processes, and as I said above, not one of the super-delegates is required to vote for Obama. He'll try to play this up, but I doubt it will discourage Clinton much, though it may suppress turnout in tonight's vote.