The Momentum Question
by J Ro, Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 11:50:20 AM EST
I have long argued that the primary seems to be more about delegate counts than momentum:
With both campaigns digging in for the long haul and the media switching its focus to delegate counts, wins in South Carolina and Florida will mean less. Super Tuesday may easily even out the counts, keeping the primary alive well into the spring.
So far, it seems this has come to pass. According to MyDD's delegate counter, Obama is leading Clinton by 3 delegates (or Clinton is leading Obama by about 70 delegates if you count MI and FL). The margins are extremely tight, the polls remain close, and because of the way delegates are given out, it is unlikely we'll see anyone reach that 2000-odd delegate threshold needed to tie up the nomination before the convention.
This, to me, means momentum doesn't exist in this race. My roommate and fellow blogger Alex Thurston disagrees.
To paraphrase a discussion we've been having for about two weeks now, he feels you can't count out the power of media narratives and individual emotions just yet. To reduce the primary down to a discussion of numbers, polls, and proportionally apportioned delegates unnecessarily takes the human equation out of the picture. Even though Barack Obama may not tie up the nomination definitively, if he keeps racking up wins in the primaries - no matter how slim those wins are - they could affect later races and eventually power him to the nomination. Additionally, the combination of high-profile endorsements for Obama and a string of primary victories could create strong pressure for Clinton to drop out before the convention.
I disagree. To me, the term momentum has a very specific definition. A candidate can only be considered to have momentum if they either a) rack up a series of wins that puts them over the 2000-odd delegate threshold or b) win so conclusively without getting 2000-odd delegates that the other candidates in the race drop out. Because neither seems likely to happen - as discussed above, a mathematical win seems highly unlikely given the polling and Clinton doesn't seem like the type to drop out given these margins - I argue that momentum simply doesn't exist in this race. At this point, I only see two ways the primary ends before the convention: a) One candidate offers the other a deal, or b) someone runs out of money.
In discussions with Alex, I have conceded that perhaps I'm being too harsh. If Barack wins a state by 1%, that still is a victory, and it still does contribute to a national feeling of momentum. So, I'll to say that while momentum may exist, it doesn't matter that it exists. (How's that for semantics?)
I'm prepared to eat my words, however. If Obama keeps winning states, and if he wins them by decent margins, you just might see the momentum needed to force the issue before we all get to Denver. With his tight lead in Wisconsin and close race in Texas, anything can happen. And if super delegates keep moving from Clinton to Obama, well...
Still, nationally, it's clear Democrats are a party divided. Clinton would have to be a fool of a politician to drop out when she still had half of of Democrats lined up behind her, no matter if she's winning primaries or not. As long as those numbers hold, I'll stand by my "no momentum" theory.
Feel free to take sides in this little debate. Does momentum exist? If it does, does it even matter?