Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Numbers By The Numbers: A Look At The Math Behind Numbers

So today Pennyslvania held its Democratic presidential primary, and the polls just closed. It also held its Republican presidential primary, which will give grant-funded census takers everywhere an intimate knowledge of how many Pennsylvanians have absolutely nothing to do on Tuesdays. Back to the Dems; it appears that them there's a race in the ol' Keystone state, with Hillary Clinton making her last stand against the surly Barack Obama, a man made bitter by his Muslim heritage which forbids him to cling to guns. (Who knew Muslims couldn't bowl, either? I guess League Night isn't one of the Five Pillars.)

A PublicPolicyPolling study this week put Obama ahead by three, but their margin of error was sixty-one points, so toss that out. ARG called Clinton by twenty but later found that their phone bank had polled Clinton versus Yo Mama. Most pollsters from ARG to Zogby are calling a Clinton victory tonight, somewhere in the range of six to twelve points. Pundits -- Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, me -- are calling for Clinton to gracefully, or at least not ungainly, step aside should she not win tonight by a sufficient margin. She is already trailing in the national popular vote and the delegate count, and the remaining states do not appear to be breaking her way; even Oregon! North Carolina looms as a genteel, dignified reaper's path on May 6.

So what constitutes a big enough win? On CNN, the sad eyed John King graciously stated, "I'll let the others decide on that point." He added, "Assume that Hillary Clinton wins by one or two points, Obama will break even...Hillary's argument becomes going to the superdelegates." Thanks, John! Well, let's break it down. If Hillary wins 100% to 0%, she will probably clinch the nomination tonight right out. Of course, winning by 100 point margins is a Chicago strategy, clearly favoring the Illinois senator. So that's out. If Obama pulls a Rocky-style upset, it's over on that side. (Technically, it's a Rocky II style upset, where both candidates repeatedly punch each other in the head until they're fighting for consciousness. Clubber McCain looms.) And since only Rush Limbaugh and the Daily Kos secessionists see a blowout, time to number crunch.

Hillary wins by 12+: Here's where Clinton can press her advantage; electability in big states. With wins in New York, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, "Florida", and "Michigan", the former First Lady has some serious clout behind her for November. If she won in actually large states like Montana and South Dakota (June 3), she'd have all her bases covered. Seriously, Montana is fucking HUGE. There are still communities there waiting for the steam-powered train. You can't reach them; Hillary Clinton can.

Hillary wins by 9 - 11: the "Rudy Giuliani margin". Hillary wins by the projected margin over the last month or so. Well, that's politics as usual, clearly a battlefield Clinton prefers. The ten point margin means that Clinton actually won Pennsylvania, and didn't just get the boost from kamikaze Republicans and the out and proud racists the closed steel mills of PA have proudly hosted since 1982. Next stop, Indiana!

Hillary wins by 6 - 8: Hillary gets her mandate and continues campaigning. Obama's campaign can boast they closed the gap. McCain sits back and takes an even longer nap. As if from a magic groundhog, CNN gets another eight weeks of banal and meaningless bullshit political coverage, instead of eight weeks of banal and meaningless bullshit anything coverage. FOX gets eight weeks to yell at CNN. Somehow, Mark Penn makes more money. Everyone wins! Except us. We all lose.

Hillary wins by 3-5 points: Despite the push from Pennsylvania's seniors, who celebrate her win by dying, Hillary gains no delegates, Obama rips her in half in North Carolina, and the campaign ends without the tie-breaking, all-important Puerto Rican primary. Maybe next time. Larry King wonders if she has enough to unseat President Bush.

Hillary wins by 1-2 points: Clinton will celebrate her victory with rampant joy, too busy to realize how fucked she is. Paul Begala keeps a single candle vigil burning outside her hotel room.

So, there you have it. If Clinton wins by 4.82 percent or less, it's over. If she wins by more than 12.44%, by law she is entitled to the nomination. Anything else, and the American people are subjected to more negative campaigning, more useless partisan hackery, and no presidential election matchup. It's been nearly four months since Iowa. It's time to get back to worrying about missing white girls, America. It's time.

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