CNN Political Ticker

Who won more delegates in Nevada? It's complicated.

There is some confusion on who won more delegates in Nevada.

(CNN) - There are several possible answers: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and no one, and each answer is correct to some degree.

The purpose of Saturday’s caucuses was to elect delegates to next month’s county conventions, where delegates to the state convention in April will be chosen. It isn’t until this April meeting where the state’s 25 delegates to the national convention in Denver will actually be selected.

Hillary Clinton indisputably won the battle for county convention delegates, nabbing at least 5,300 compared to about 4,800 for Obama.

However, one could argue that Barack Obama won the battle for national convention delegates – even though no national delegates were actually awarded tonight – if you assume that the national convention delegates would be allocated in proportion to Saturday’s caucus results. CNN, the Associated Press, and other news organizations adopted this approach and estimated that Obama would go on to win 13 national convention delegates to 12 for Clinton if both candidates remained in the race by the time of the state convention in April.

But how is it possible that Clinton could win a majority of county convention delegates and not go on to win a majority of national convention delegates?

Under state party rules, Nevada’s 25 national convention delegates were divided up across Nevada’s three congressional districts. Then, the party took the additional step of dividing the Second Congressional District into three parts: Washoe county in northwestern Nevada which includes Reno; parts of Clark county in the southeast near Las Vegas; and then the rural and sparsely populated but geographically vast counties that make up the rest of the state.

Of those three subdivisions, Clinton's best showing was concentrated in the Las Vegas area in Clark county, while Obama beat her in Washoe and in the rural counties. Obama’s win in these two key areas, which were worth more national delegates than the area Clinton won, enabled him to overcome Clinton’s estimated lead in national delegates in the rest of the state.

“In a nutshell what happened is in the rural areas, Obama had a majority in the district that had an odd number of delegates, so he won an extra seat,” the Obama campaign’s director of delegate selection, Jeff Berman, told reports in a conference call. “Where Clinton won, the delegates were split evenly.”

The Clinton campaign, not surprisingly, chose to emphasize their candidate’s win in county convention delegates, rather than their narrow loss in the estimated allocation of national convention delegates.

“Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucuses today by winning a majority of the delegates at stake,” the campaign said in a statement Saturday. “The Obama campaign is wrong. Delegates for the national convention will not be determined until April 19.”

Which campaign was right? According to the state party: both of them and neither of them.

Nevada Democratic Party Chair Jill Derby said in a statement, “What was awarded today were delegates to the County Convention, of which Sen. Clinton won the majority.”

“No national convention delegates were awarded. That said, if the delegate preferences remain unchanged between now and April 2008, the calculations of national convention delegates being circulated by the Associated Press are correct.”

That estimate would give Obama a 13-to-12 edge in Nevada’s national convention delegates.

Obama still trails Clinton in the overall hunt for national convention delegates. According to a CNN survey, Clinton now leads Obama 210 to 123 in delegates overall when the preferences of party insiders known as “superdelegates” are factored in. A total of 2,025 national convention delegate votes are needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.