Defying Clinton campaign's predictions, Obama takes delegate lead

Major news organizations now give Barack Obama a sizable lead in delegates over Hillary Clinton.

Published February 13, 2008 2:24PM (EST)

Hillary Clinton's campaign knew this would be a tough month for her, and that at some point Barack Obama was likely to take a lead in total delegates. But it didn't expect the commanding margins by which Obama has won recently, and his lead in news organization delegate counts is higher than Clinton advisors had predicted.

In a Feb. 6 conference call, Clinton advisors said that the race for delegates would remain close this month. "Even fairly important victories, in terms of vote counts, don't always translate into very large delegate margins ... So it is likely that no side will gain an appreciable or significant advantage in overall delegate counts between now and March 4th," campaign communications director Howard Wolfson said in that call. "We think that we are in the pole position because we have a lead, overall, in delegates. We think it is going to be very difficult for Senator Obama to make up that lead because of the way in which the party allocates its delegates proportionately ... Senator Obama does enjoy some advantages in the contests in the rest of February, but not in a way that should permit him to overcome our lead in delegates."

Guy Cecil, a top field strategist for the Clinton campaign, added, "We think that over the course of the Chesapeake primary that the delegate margin overall would be within 15 delegates ... And we think that, in the end, once the Chesapeake primary is over, while we expect the next few days to be leaning toward Obama, we expect to get a good share of delegates out of each of these states."

But that's not the way this has shaken out. According to CNN, Obama took the lion's share of delegates at stake in each of Tuesday night's three primaries (50 of 76 in Virginia, 11 of 16 in Maryland and nine of 11 in Washington, D.C.), and he has now jumped out to a larger lead in major media organization delegate counts than the Clinton campaign had predicted. Here are some of those counts, which vary because of differing methodology and variations in surveys of superdelegates:

ABC News:
Clinton: 1,205
Obama: 1,232

Associated Press:
Clinton: 1,198
Obama: 1,223

CBS News:
Clinton: 1,175
Obama: 1,242

Clinton: 1,190
Obama: 1,215

According to NBC political director Chuck Todd, Clinton has a hard task ahead of her. She'll need to win more than 55 percent of delegates in the states that remain, which would include carrying the states she has a chance to win with about 60 percent of the vote, Todd says.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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