Of Math and Miracles

A campaign blog.
Feb. 29 2008 12:07 PM

Of Math and Miracles

Ah, expectations. With yet another Tuesday right around the corner, the campaigns are spinning like dreidels.

The Obama campaign is essentially arguing that Hillary is beaten on the board. On a conference call this morning, David Plouffe said that Clinton will "fail miserably" at closing the pledged delegate gap. He added that if there’s a tie in Ohio and Texas, Clinton would need to win 75 percent of pledged delegates from there on in order to close the gap. ( Slate ’s Delegate Calculator offers a much more conservative estimate of 62 percent or so.) It’s a notable shift in rhetoric: Before, Obama’s team claimed he was still the underdog. Now, they’re saying Hillary has no mathematical chance of winning. When confronted with a similar dilemma , Mike Huckabee said he "majored in miracles." Clinton has not yet resorted to the supernatural.

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She has, however, resorted to the highly implausible. Clinton’s camp is raising sky-high expectations for Obama. Their latest "memo" argues  that given all the time Obama has spent in Ohio and Texas " meeting editorial boards, courting endorsers, holding rallies, and—of course—making speeches," and considering all the money spent—$18.4 million to Clinton’s $9.2 million for advertising in the next four states—anything other than total victory constitutes failure: "If he cannot win all of these states with all this effort, there's a problem." 

In short: Obama says Clinton has no chance. Clinton says Obama needs a blowout. Both claims are fairly over-the-top. But at least Obama’s has the benefit of being vaguely rooted in science. Plus, they can both finally agree on something: Obama is ahead.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

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