The morning after Obama won his 10th straight victory over Clinton, his campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters that the New York senator would need to win massive, double-digit victories in upcoming contests to even begin to erase her current delegate deficit.
He added that his campaign's most conservative estimate for the critical March 4 contests would still leave Obama with a lead of about 150 pledged delegates. (See CNN's latest delegate estimate here)
Clinton, Plouffe said on a morning conference call, would have to win three out of every four remaining pledged delegates to begin to be competitive in that area.
“This is a wide, wide lead right now…I am amused when the Clinton campaign continues to say: Well, it’s essentially a tie. I mean that’s just lunacy,” said Plouffe. “We have opened up a big and meaningful pledged delegate lead. They are going to have to win landslides from here on out to erase it.”
He said the campaign expected the negative tone of the race to increase in the coming weeks, and he accused the Clinton campaign of attempting to “rewrite the rules” because of their current disadvantage in pledged delegates, which are distributed according to vote totals.
Clinton senior adviser Harold Ickes told reporters Wednesday that he believes the New York senator trails Obama by at least 75 delegates.
Regardless of the results in the remaining primary season contests – including March 4 votes in Ohio and Texas that her campaign had called “critical” – Ickes emphasized in a morning conference call that both Obama and Clinton would need “a number of automatic delegates” to claim the Democratic nomination.
In recent weeks, Ickes and other Clinton advisers have begun using the term ‘automatic delegates’ to refer to individuals commonly known as ‘superdelegates’ – elected officials and other party leaders who are free to cast their ballot for any candidate they wish, regardless of the election result in their state, and can change their pick at any time up until the final vote.
Most superdelegates have yet to state publicly which candidate they plan to support. Since Obama and Clinton will both need to claim a majority of this group to become the party’s nominee, said Ickes, the Illinois senator’s campaign should not continue to say that the pledged delegate leader should automatically win the nomination.
Clinton currently leads Obama among this group, although Obama leads in both pledged delegates and in the overall delegate count.
But, Ickes added, "We think Mr. Obama is the frontrunner."