- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2008

Both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are expected to win a significant share of delegates at stake tomorrow, but neither is likely to clinch the party’s nomination in Super Tuesday’s 22 contests.

The reason: the Democratic contests award delegates based on a proportional system, giving each candidate who wins more than 15 percent of votes statewide or in the congressional districts a percentage of the state’s delegates.

“The proportional system allows for a fair reflection of the division of the popular vote and if that is nearly divided, so will be the delegates under this system,” said Rhodes Cook, a veteran election analyst.

“It would be hard for one candidate to break away from the other unless they were sweeping the lion’s share of the states and winning them by large margins. So with the polls as close as they are, the race will remain quite active after Super Tuesday, unless somebody unexpectedly wins everywhere, but that’s not expected at this point on the Democratic side,” Mr. Cook said.

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, says that whatever the outcome, the battle between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama will be far from over after tomorrow’s votes are tabulated.

“There’s no question this goes on for at least another three weeks,” Miss Brazile told The Washington Times.

“If they are still equally matched in delegates at the close of business Wednesday, and they both have the capacity to raise another $25 million, what’s to stop them from going on for another several weeks,” she said.

More than 80 percent of the delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination are up for grabs tomorrow, with 1,681 of the 2,025 in play. Mrs. Clinton holds a slight 232 to 158 delegate lead.

On the Republican side, the delegate-rich northeastern states of New York and New Jersey are winner-take all, as are a handful of other sizable states such as Arizona and Missouri.

Sen. John McCain appears headed for victory in many of those places, which would go a long way toward sewing up 1,191 needed to win the nomination. He only leads Mitt Romney by five delgates heading into tomorrow’s contests, which will award 1,023 delegates, more than the 80 percent needed to win the nomination.

The big exception is California, the mother lode of delegates. For Republicans, almost all of the delegates will be divided based on congressional districts, while for Democrats the 370 delegates at stake tomorrow out of a total of 441 are awarded based on both congressional district and statewide performance. Mrs. Clinton is locked in a dead heat with Mr. Obama by in California, where each has a polling average of 40 percent. Both are expected to emerge with a share of the delegates from each congressional district or from at-large delegates, depending on their respective vote totals.

Mrs. Clinton was leading by substantial margins in states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri and Tennessee, which would divide a total of 790 delegates among them.

But the race was close or Mr. Obama was leading in other states where he could offset some of her delegate totals with a larger share of the delegates.

In Georgia, for example, with 103 delegates, and in Alabama, with 60 delegates, where he was expected to benefit from a large black vote, Mr. Obama led in the latest polls by an average 52 percent to 36 percent, and 40 percent to 35 percent respectively in state polls last week.

The Gallup Poll’s national daily tracking survey, which last week showed Mrs. Clinton at 44 percent and Mr. Obama moving closer with 41 percent, said its numbers suggested “that Obama has gained slightly more at least initially from John Edwards’ departure from the race.”

Miss Brazile said the bitterly-fought nomination contest has left “a lot of blood on the floor but it’s too early to end this debate now. It’s healthy for democracy and this is the way you grow parties.”

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