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What If Democrats Used Winner Take All?

A Commentary by Wesley Little

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Even as the Obama and Clinton campaigns fight frantically to establish the appropriate yard-stick by which to judge the will of the American people, one fact has been largely ignored: Obama's significant delegate lead is largely a product of the Democrats' unique delegate allocation system.

A remnant of the bitter convention of 1968 and the McGovern-Fraser Commission that followed, Democrats now award their presidential convention representatives in a proportional manner, under which delegates are given to all those surpassing certain percentage thresholds. We have to wonder, what would the race look like if the Democrats used the same "winner-take-all" system used in the Republican Party? The results are quite surprising, to say the least.

Table 1. Pledged Delegate Totals Using Hypothetical "Winner Take All" System

Barack Obama

 

Hillary Clinton

 

Still to Come

 

TOTAL

1260

 

TOTAL

1427

 

TOTAL

566

 

Alabama

52

 

Arizona

56

 

Guam

4

 

Alaska

13

 

Arkansas

35

 

Indiana

72

 

American Samoa

3

 

California

370

 

Kentucky

51

 

Colorado

55

 

Florida

?

 

Montana

16

 

Connecticut

48

 

Massachusetts

93

 

North Carolina

115

 

Delaware

15

 

Michigan

?

 

Oregon

52

 

Democrats Abroad

7

 

Nevada

25

 

Pennsylvania

158

 

District of Columbia

15

 

New Hampshire

22

 

Puerto Rico

55

 

Georgia

87

 

New Jersey

107

 

South Dakota

15

 

Hawaii

20

 

New Mexico

26

 

Unassigned

0

 

Idaho

18

 

New York

232

 

West Virginia

28

 

Illinois

153

 

Ohio

141

   

Iowa

45

 

Oklahoma

38

   

Kansas

32

 

Rhode Island

21

   

Louisiana

56

 

Tennessee

68

   

Maine

24

 

Texas

193

   

Maryland

70

   

Minnesota

72

   

Mississippi

33

   

Missouri

72

   

Nebraska

24

   

North Dakota

13

   

South Carolina

45

   

Utah

23

   

Vermont

15

   

Virgin Islands

3

   

Virginia

83

   

Washington

78

   

Wisconsin

74

   

Wyoming

12

   
           
           

If the Democrats were to allot their current state delegate totals in a winner-take-all format, Clinton would actually have a significant delegate advantage. Despite having won only 14 recognized contests to Obama's 30, Clinton would currently have a 120 (1738 to 1618) total delegate lead and a remarkable 167 (1427 to 1260) pledged delegate lead. These numbers give Texas' "prima-caucus" delegates to Clinton and do not include Florida, Michigan or the 693 total delegates and 566 pledged delegates still to be won in the next few months.

Obviously, the Clinton campaign cannot argue for changing the system this late in the game, especially since they agreed to the ground-rules of the process before the campaign started. Yet in a race that has become principally about winning the several hundred uncommitted super-delegates, this argument could be used to provide cover for electors currently unwilling to go against the race's "clear leader".

Table 2. Combined Pledged and Superdelegate Totals Using "Winner Take All"

Barack Obama

 

Hillary Clinton

 

Still to Come

 

TOTAL

1618

 

TOTAL

1738

 

TOTAL

693

 

Alabama

60

 

Arizona

67

 

Guam

9

 

Alaska

18

 

Arkansas

47

 

Indiana

84

 

American Samoa

9

 

California

441

 

Kentucky

60

 

Colorado

71

 

Florida

?

 

Montana

24

 

Connecticut

60

 

Massachusetts

121

 

North Carolina

134

 

Delaware

23

 

Michigan

?

 

Oregon

65

 

Democrats Abroad

11

 

Nevada

33

 

Pennsylvania

188

 

District of Columbia

38

 

New Hampshire

30

 

Puerto Rico

63

 

Georgia

103

 

New Jersey

127

 

South Dakota

23

 

Hawaii

29

 

New Mexico

38

 

Unassigned

4

 

Idaho

23

 

New York

281

 

West Virginia

39

 

Illinois

185

 

Ohio

161

   

Iowa

57

 

Oklahoma

47

   

Kansas

41

 

Rhode Island

32

   

Louisiana

66

 

Tennessee

85

   

Maine

34

 

Texas

228

   

Maryland

99

   

Minnesota

88

   

Mississippi

40

   

Missouri

88

   

Nebraska

31

   

North Dakota

21

   

South Carolina

54

   

Utah

29

   

Vermont

23

   

Virgin Islands

9

   

Virginia

101

   

Washington

97

   

Wisconsin

92

   

Wyoming

18

   
           
           

The Clinton campaign could contend that it is the proportional allocation system's inherent "over-fairness" that is denying her the significant delegate gains that she justifiably deserves from winning states like Ohio, where Clinton's 10 percent margin of victory only garnered her 9 more delegates than Obama. This may be an effective argument for Sen. Clinton to justify going forward in the race, especially if she is able to pull closer to even in the popular vote after the contests in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina.

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