January 10th, 2008


Can't tell the players without a scorecard...

If, like me, you're trying to muddle through the primary process (which just for once is interesting enough to pay attention to), you may want to check out CNN's Delegate Scorecard. It's a bit opaque at first, but digging around in it does provide enough information to more or less understand what's going on. In particular, the Delegate Explainer page gives a concise overview of each party's policies.

Bear in mind, understanding does not bring happiness: now that I grok the superdelegate thing, I can't say I like it. But it does explain why the scorecard shows Clinton well ahead of Obama in the totals -- she starts out with a well-schmoozed collection of superdelegates who have already said that they are supporting her. And I don't have a huge amount of respect for the fact that delegate assignment is proportional unless you fall below 15% in a state, in which case you get nothing. Nicely designed to make sure that the edges of the party don't have a say in the convention, presumably in the name of orderliness. (OTOH, some Republican states are strictly winner-take-all, which I respect even less.)

That said, I was startled and ruefully amused to see that MA already has 11 delegates listed on one side or another. And the scorecard does drive home the plausibility of a split convention, with Edwards playing kingmaker if he stays in the race. The media has been making a huge deal about who "won" Iowa and NH, but the reality is that Clinton and Obama are separated by exactly one delegate in each -- that is, they are exactly tied in the delegates from the states that have actually spoken so far -- and Edwards really isn't far behind.

Oh, and it's worth noting, because nothing in the media would lead you to realize it: Romney is winning so far on the Republican side. Not even counting the unpledged delegates who have indicated support for him, he won outright in Wyoming (largely ignored), and came in a strong second in the other two states. Like I said six months ago, I still see him as the likeliest Republican candidate: while I personally think he's vile, he's a smooth operator and a skilled campaigner. And his lack of principles means that people don't tend to dislike him for *specific* things, as they do all the other candidates. (Yes, the Mormon thing hurts him a bit, but the times have turned ecumenical -- being avidly of *some* faith is, I believe, seen by many as more important than weakly of a specific one.)

The moral of the story seems to be: ignore the way the media is spinning this, and pay attention to the numbers. They want to make each state look winner-take-all (indeed, from the way they talk, you can scarcely tell otherwise), but the reality is *much* subtler and more interesting than that, especially in a messy race like this one...