February 13th, 2008
12:10 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama, McCain camps say opponents can't catch them

 The Obama campaign said Wednesday it's nearly impossible now for Clinton to finish with more pledged delegates.
The Obama campaign said Wednesday it's nearly impossible now for Clinton to finish with more pledged delegates.

(CNN) – As the all-important delegate chase continues, the campaigns of presidential frontrunners Barack Obama and John McCain argued Wednesday that it was now just about mathematically impossible, or already so, for rivals Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee to capture their parties’ presidential nominations.

On a Wednesday morning conference call with reporters, Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, said that the Illinois senator’s own sweep of Tuesday’s Potomac primaries had made it “next to impossible” for Clinton to capture the Democratic nomination.

The most recent CNN count of Democratic delegates puts Obama ahead of the New York senator, 1,215 to 1,190, a gap of just 25 delegates. That includes both pledged delegates who are distributed proportionately according to election results in their state, and unpledged superdelegates who have made their presidential preference known. Superdelegates are free to cast their vote without regard for the primary or caucus results in their home states.

This cycle, the party’s nominee will need to capture 2,025 delegates. The campaigns of both Clinton and Obama have said that, whatever the upcoming results, both are planning to stay in the race through the national convention, when delegates cast their votes.

But the upcoming primary calendar, said Plouffe, offers Clinton little chance to recover the lead. “The only way she could do it is by winning every contest by 25 to 30 points. You amass delegates by winning by big margins,” he said.

He said that scenario was unlikely, since Obama had won 14 states and the District of Columbia by more than 20 points, while Clinton had won just two states by similar margins. And polling in the upcoming, delegate-rich contests of Ohio and Texas – which the Clinton campaign has said are “critical” – show a far narrower race in both states.

If she does not regain a lead in pledged delegates, she would need to capture an overwhelming majority of superdelegates in order to become the Democratic nominee. Plouffe argued that is unlikely, since superdelegates have begun to say publicly they are reluctant to overrule the results of the pledged delegate count coming into the party’s August convention.

The Clinton campaign has said that the leader in pledged delegates will not necessarily be the party’s nominee, as superdelegate votes have equal weight in the Democratic nominating process. The campaign has also said they will fight to seat delegations from Michigan and Florida, which were stripped of their voting privileges for violating party rules in scheduling their presidential primaries.

Clinton was the only major Democratic candidate to appear on the ballot in Michigan, and she won the votes in both states. On Tuesday, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond also called for the Florida and Michigan delegations to be seated at the Democratic convention.

In a campaign memo sent to reporters, McCain Campaign Manager Rick Davis said the Arizona senator’s wins in Tuesday’s Potomac primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. had put the presidential nomination out of reach for Huckabee, saying that the former Arkansas governor needed more delegates than the number up for grabs in the remaining GOP contests.

Davis said there are only 774 delegates available in remaining votes. According to the latest CNN count, Mike Huckabee has 217 delegates – leaving him 974 votes short of the party’s requirement of 1,191. McCain currently has 812, leaving him just 379 delegates short of the mark.

McCain, the likely Republican nominee, won all three contests Tuesday night – but dealt with another uncomfortably close race, as conservatives flocked to Huckabee in Virginia. The senator has struggled to win over his party’s conservative base for much of his presidential run.

Huckabee has said he is committed to staying in the race at least until one of the candidates actually reaches the required mark of 1,191.

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (355 Responses)
  1. Smart vote

    De javu. His arrogant becomes more and more like Bush, everyday.
    American people elected Bush. Now they're going to elect another one just like him again. They just never learn.
    I can see this country doomed for the next 4-8 years if he's a president.
    very sad indeed.

    Vote stupid, vote Obama!.

    February 13, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  2. Anonymous

    "The Clinton campaign has said that the leader in pledged delegates will not necessarily be the party’s nominee, as superdelegate votes have equal weight in the Democratic nominating process."

    So Hillary's going to have a number of superdelegates who owe her or her husband favors or who cut deals with her decide the election after Democrats across the states have all but decided the election? I'm sure that'll go down well in Denver.

    "The campaign has also said they will fight to seat delegations from Michigan and Florida, which were stripped of their voting privileges for violating party rules in scheduling their presidential primaries."

    And Hillary's proposing on changing the rules of the game after the game's been played? Obama was not even on the Michigan ballot nor did he campaign in Florida, per his word. Hillary on the other hand, defied the Democratic party's sanction, did not take her name off the Michigan ballot, and held "fundraisers" in Florida. Now she's trying to claim rightful victory and legitimize her defiance of party rules?

    February 13, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  3. Tanaya

    Obama's movement is gaining speed and it doesn't look like its going to stop. The more people know him, hear him, see him the more they are willing to hope. Obama is the stronger candidate against McCain. They stand in clear contrast to one another, and if you listen to them both speak, Obama is much stronger and politically less divisive. Obama can also generate the kind of energy that politics needs in this country. I know so many people, young and old, who for the first time in their lives are really paying attention and really trying to make a difference. A president that we can believe in, that will bring out the best in all of us, and will increase respect for the US around the world, is exactly what we need. We need it now more than ever. We can't keep things the same because that means staying on this path of destruction. This country is great and we can prove it to ourselves and others. We can do right by the world. We CAN elect Obama to the highest office in the land. WE CAN. WE WILL. CHANGE IS HERE.

    February 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  4. Barry

    Two questions.

    1. If you're discussing the math and not what is actually likely, the discussion here is unclear. If McCain has only 812 delegates, don't the delegates committed to Huckabee + the ones committed to other candidates + the ones left to be committed add up to a majority? So why is it impossible for the candidates committed to other delegates + the Huckabee delegates add up to a majority?

    2. You write, "The Clinton campaign has said that the leader in pledged delegates will not necessarily be the party’s nominee, as superdelegate votes have equal weight in the Democratic nominating process." Surely the Clinton campaign's claim is false. The superdelegates have about 20% of the votes at the convention. (If the claim is that one superdelegate has the same power as one elected delegate, it's even sillier. That would be the case even if there were precisely zero superdelegates. Doesn't mean much.)

    February 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  5. LISTEN!!!!!

    obama....tearin' it up.

    February 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  6. Penny Hood

    The Democratic Party has two very strong, intelligent, politically smart candidates. One of them is inspiring a new generation of future leaders, activists and participants in the political system. One of them believes that through unity we can accomplish great things, the other feels that great ideas will rally unity. The first is a bottom up approach the second a top down approach. It would be a suicidal move for the party leaders to back the candidate who symbolizes the top down, I'll take care of you, approach. Barack Obama is proving that he has the capacity to move the Democratic Party toward a level of participation we could only imagine a few years ago.
    For the super delegates to move toward Clinton when the country is moving toward Obama completely negates the carefully orchestrated chaos of proportional delegates, caucuses, and voter directed democracy. If democracy is messy, then let it work. If it is only a sham, then watch it disappear.

    February 13, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  7. Ayo

    Obama seems to know what exactly he is doing. He has out strategized the Clinton's campaign and i don't see how she can catch him

    February 13, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  8. dave

    I pray everyday to save this country Obama wins and becomes President. Bush has divided this country so much it is scary.

    February 13, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  9. Respected Historian

    This is it.
    Billary Team needs to respect the wishes of the Electorate and concede defeat. It is now time to start uniting the party in readiness for the convention in August and the General Election in Nov. pending the great march to the White House soon thereafter in January 2009.
    Last time we checked, Hillary was leading the popular vote even when you factored Michigan and Florida total votes (sans delegates.) by about 400,000 However, with last night's Obama's sweep of the potomac primaries, Obama now leads the popular vote–EVEN WITH MI & FL being counted (sans delegates).
    Billary team needs to know that for the sake of the party, they need to concede defeat, swallow their pride and start uniting the party.
    OBAMA '08

    February 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  10. Brian

    Hillary should be selfless and bow out gracefully now to help start uniting the party. The Obama camp is right- in terms of pledged delegates there is little chance of Hillary catching him which would leave her only option to win in the hand of superdelegates which will rip the party apart and guarantee another Republican term. Plus, it looks like all of the polls show Obama matching up against McCain WAY better than Clinton, and if she truly has the parties best interest at heart she will suspend her campaign.

    February 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  11. Alecki

    Hillary is going to win.
    If she doesn't it's rediculous coverage for a civil rights movement.

    February 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  12. mainstream_media_ shut up

    Hillary Clinton 44.9%
    Barack Obama 43.9%
    She is still ahead :)

    February 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  13. Wayne, Greenville TX

    I get the feeling that Obama will have the nomination sewn up early in March – if not after the Texas and Ohio primaries, then shortly thereafter.

    February 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  14. Just a thought

    Obama has run a great campaign but I often wonder what his advisers are doing. Why say something like this? It just fires up the Hillary supporters and sets the stage for a letdown if there are any bumps in the road. Very strange piece of strategy.

    February 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  15. observer#1

    Ohio and Texas, do your homework before you just vote for this man on empty speeches. He supports charter schools which create union bust and drains funds for public schools, nice, huh ,schoolteachers and educators? He voted against the flag protection amendment, so burn all the American flags you want. He supported state laws to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of guns, yet he was 1 of only 3 to vote against harsher laws against gang members, makes you feel safe, huh? He voted against keeping government eyes on foreigners in this country that may pose terroist threats. On Iraq he said, theres not that much difference between my position and George Bush's. He does not define the issues he is running on , therefore he does not like debates. He will never pose a threat to corporate interest, remember Exelon? Don't get caught up in the speeches and chants, do your homework on this man, you won't like what you see. So far the media has not scrutinized this man, the Republicans are just waiting. Believe me, they are loaded with dirt on him. He may get the nomination but once Americans are forced to look closer, its not pretty.

    February 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  16. Heather

    OBAMA '08

    The people of the USVI are rooting for you! I don't even think our service men and women want to see Hillary in office, a little birdy told me yesterday.

    February 13, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  17. ray in vegas

    It's on!!!

    In this corner . . . 45 years old, 6 foot 3 inches tall, 195 lbs, Opposer of the Iraq War, Champion of Affordable Healthcare, Constitutional Law Professor, Campaign Finance Reformer, Inspiration to Millions, The Clinton Destroyer, The Unbeatable, The Unstoppable, The One and Only .... Barack Obama! (Insert cheers here.)

    And . . . in this corner . . . 71 years old, 5 foot 7 inches tall, 183 lbs, Vietnam War Hero and Prisoner of War, Opposer of American Torture, Cheerleader of the America's War in Iraq, The Surge Protector, Defender of the Rights of Undocumented Immigrants, Campaign Finance Reformer, Man of Principal ... John McCain! (Insert cheers here.)

    Keep it above the belt, Gentlemen!

    Ding, ding!

    February 13, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  18. Texan for Hillary

    “next to impossible” for Clinton to capture the Democratic nomination.

    Please think again......I haven't talked to one person who plans on voting for the Jr. Pretender.

    I for one will vote Republican before I vote for someone with NO experience or solid plans.

    The best thing that the Democratic Party could do to insure another 4 years of a Republican Whitehouse is to offer up a nothing like Obama.

    PLEASE DON"T LET THIS HAPPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Hillary 08

    February 13, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  19. godlesspriest

    Since Obama normally likes to play the underdog, this tack is a significant gamble (risking a revolt among voters who don't want to be told that it's over). But it's worth it; he's basically saying that a big move to him is the only way to avoid a nightmarish convention/credentials scenario. At this point it's hard to imagine a Hillary win that won't involve something deeply unpleasant, like superdelegates giving her the win or the sham primaries in Ohio and Fla turning the count her way.

    February 13, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  20. Kalman

    The math looks right to me as well. Clinton has to win and win big to avoid a brokered convention. A brokered convention is no one's interests and if Obama can win big in some states and keep Texas and Ohio from going big to Clinton, he's probably the nominee. And those two states seem to be tightening, so his camp might be right.

    February 13, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  21. Scott

    America wants a President, not a Professor. Senator Clinton knows more about policy than most Political Science professors but this is not a college exam. Of course we want someone who is razor sharp (we've had enough with the opposite the past 8 years). But Senator Clinton's proponents who claim that she is "all substance" because she can talk about the arcane policy for 4 hours are missing the point. There are plenty of people who can talk policy. The position of President is one for a leader.

    February 13, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  22. OCanada

    For someone who stands tall on her experience, it seems woefully short-sighted in this campaign. Why she didn't plan for the obviously possible aftermath of Super Tuesday, especially after the Iowa surprise, is nobody's problem but hers. I'm not sure the US and the world can afford to have her underestimate any other opponents the US may run into in the next 4 years.

    It would seem very unfair to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates at this point. You don't agree to play the game and then ask for a rule change when you begin to fear you're not winning. Why would those states break the rules anyway, thus not allowing their people to counted?

    February 13, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  23. WakeUp!!!

    Just an FYI, how Clinton Camp is pressuring super delegates.
    When former presidential candidate and Clinton-administration energy secretary Bill Richardson declined to endorse Hillary Clinton after dropping out, the candidate's husband, as Fornier notes, placed an angry call to the New Mexico governor.

    "What," Bill Clinton asked Richardson, "isn't two Cabinet posts enough?"

    February 13, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  24. Alecki

    Please don't make this guy the democratic candidate.
    He is just a speaker, but never talks policy.

    No Universal Health Care?
    Go Hillary!!!!!!11111

    February 13, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  25. Kevin, Illinois

    Obama is right. The only way the Clintons can capture the nomination is to do what they aways have done, bend the rules to be in their favor. If that happens, McCain will win.

    February 13, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15