My favorite liberal asserts this morning that wins there could put Hillary “in striking distance” of Obama. Let’s define striking distance. According to CNN’s count, Obama leads 1527-1428, or, if you exclude superdelegates, 1328-1190, a difference of 138. There are 366 delegates at stake in the two states; if Hillary wins both 55/45, the delegates should split roughly 201/165, a difference of 36 — which won’t even get her to within double digits of Obama among pledged delegates. Bear in mind too that the latest Rasmussen poll not only doesn’t give her a 55/45 lead in Michigan, it doesn’t give her a lead at all: 41/41, with 18% undecided. So Michigan’s likely to end up a near-wash, with Florida providing her 25 extra delegates or so. Obama’s on track to blow her out tomorrow night in Mississippi so even that 25 will be offset.
All that being so, what do Florida and Michigan really do for her? Winning them strengthens her case that she can win the big states that Obama can’t but she’s already won enough of those that she doesn’t need these two to cement the point. If, as expected, there are problems with the ballots or vote-counting or lawsuits, then winning only makes her look that much less legitimate ahead of the convention. As noted above, her “moral” case to the superdels that she should be the nominee isn’t much greater than it was before since she’ll still trail far behind in pledged delegates. All that’s accomplished by the victories is to make her task of wooing superdels (or even pledged delegates, per her answer to the first question here) marginally easier by reducing the number she’ll need to convince to clinch the nomination. I’ve always assumed that party bigwigs will broker some kind of deal among the undecided superdelegates to vote en masse for one candidate or another — especially since the bulk of them are DNC apparatchiks — so even that very marginal improvement isn’t hugely significant. So what’s the big deal about the two states? Just a case of her campaign grasping at any straw they can find, imagining that “Hillary wins Florida — again!” headlines are going to turn the whole race around?
Update: Commenters agree that it’s all about the popular vote.
Update: Our commenters are ahead of the game. Verrrrry interesting.