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Opinion: Super Tuesday Scorecard

By Michael Lewis, assistant professor of law at Ohio Northern University's Pettit College of Law

As half the nation prepares to vote in primaries tomorrow, there is an
increasing likelihood that Ohio's primaries on March 4 will be meaningful in
one (and perhaps both) races. Here is a scorecard for helping to determine
how important a role Ohio will play in the nominating process.


Hillary Clinton remains the front-runner for the Democratic nomination on
the strength of her lead in the delegate race and in the majority of the
Super Tuesday polls. While Barrack Obama has been narrowing this lead
recently it is still expected that Clinton will win more delegates on
Tuesday, and it is the delegates that matter. While much attention will be
paid to who wins California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey, the
Democratic primaries are all proportional, meaning that the losing
candidates still win delegates and a 52%-48% win does little to separate the
candidates in the delgate race.

So here are the numbers that matter. If Clinton wins more than 1,100
delegates on Super Tuesday she is probably well on her way to the
nomination. That will mean that Obama won less than 780 delegates and
Clinton will have widened her lead to over 400. It also means that Obama's
momentum closing the lead has stalled. Although she will still be only a
little over halfway to the 2,025 delegates needed to nominate, a lead of
over 400 delegates will be very difficult to overcome in proportional
primaries. On the other hand, if Clinton wins less than 1,000 delegates on
Tuesday, this will indicate that Obama has continued to close the gap
indicated in the various statewide polls and that with more time to campaign
in Virginia and Maryland the following week and in the March 4 states of
Ohio and Texas a roughly 200 delegate lead would not be insurmountable.


John McCain has emerged as the clear front-runner after his win in Florida
coupled with the endorsements of Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee remain in the race, and although only
Romney possesses the resources to challenge McCain on a national basis,
Huckabee's presence will certainly influence the outcome of Super Tuesday.
This is particularly true because several of the Republican primaries are
winner-take-all, including Missouri where Huckabee is McCain's only serious
rival. It is again the delegate counts that you should watch.

McCain will benefit from the winner-take-all rules in New York, New Jersey,
Arizona and Connecticut, while Romney will probably win all the delegates in
Utah and Montana. The number for McCain is 650 delegates won on Tuesday.
Combined with Huckabee's pickup of at least 125 delegates, this number will
mean that McCain will have opened up a lead of over 350 delegates over
Romney; a lead that Romney will not be able to overcome with the almost
exclusively proportional contests remaining (Virginia, Vermont and DC are
the only remaining winner-take-all contests). It will also mean that McCain
will be almost 2/3 of the way to the 1,191 needed to secure the Republican
nomination. If McCain wins less than 600 delegates on Tuesday it will
probably mean the Huckabee pulled out a win in Missouri and that Romney did
better than anticipated in California, Illinois and the Mountain West
states. That result would mean that, with his extensive resources, Romney
would retain a puncher's chance of taking the nomination all the way to the
convention, a road that would have to run through Ohio and Texas on March 4.

So those are the numbers to watch for. Enjoy the election coverage.