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2025: The Wrong Number

- March 7, 2008

QUESTION: What do the following numbers have in common: 3, 7, 8, and 2025?

ANSWER: They’re “magic numbers.”

RESPONSE: Well, okay. 3 and 7 and 8 are magic numbers — and maybe even 6. But 2025? C’mon.

REPLY: Yes, of course it is, 2025 is the number of delegates required to win the Democratic presidential nomination. For Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, 2025 is the magic number.

To which George Sterzinger, a regular reader of “The Monkey Cage,” retorts, “Oh, yeah?”

I just did a Google search on “2025 delegates” and came up with 263,000 hits. It’s the number that’s out there. Unless something changes, it’s the wrong number.

Here’s George’s recalculation:

UPDATE: I’ve revised George’s calculations, as per Phil Young’s comment (see below).

bq. Common wisdom has it that to win the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton must win 2025 delegates. At this moment, the bean counters at RealClearPolitics put Obama at 1573 delegates and Clinton at 1434. (These numbers include declared Super Delegates.) Looking out at the remaining states, the conventional wisdom again says it is unlikely that either candidate will get to the 2025 total because Obama, with more delegates currently, would have to win 60% of the remaining 729 delegates to get there — and that wouild be difficult.

bq. Let’s take a closer look at the magic number of 2025 delegates, which turns out not be be magic at all. It follows from the proposition that winning the nomination requires a simple majority of the total available delegates. Because 4049 total delegates were originally available, any candidate who got 2025 of them would have a simple majority and therefore would become the nominee. BUT with the Michigan and Florida delegates removed, the picture changes … and so does the math.

bq. Michigan had a total of 128 delegates and Florida had 185, for a combined total of 313. These have been zeroed out and under the current rules are not available for anyone to win. Without them, the total number of delegates drops from 4049 to 3736. A simple majority of the total delegates actually available is 1869 … not 2025 — unless Michigan and Florida somehow contrive to have their delegates restored.

bq. What does this change? The remaining states have 729 delegates up for grabs. Obama needs to win 296 additional delegates or 41% of them to get to the simple majority. Clinton has 1434 pledged delegates, so for her to get to 1869 she needs an additional 435 delegates, or 60% of the total.

For Obama supporters, the Michigan- and Florida-less mathematics are friendly because they make it even easier to pick up the remaining delegates we would need to put him over the top.