Barack Obama's landslide victory in the North Carolina Primary, coupled with Hillary Clinton's microscopic win in Indiana settled the outcome of the battle for the Democratic Nomination. The results made it both mathematically and politically impossible for her to wrest the nomination from Obama. They also eliminated the underpinning rationale for her continued candidacy. Here's why:
1). The New Math: Barack's Magic Number. Yesterday's primaries weren't the "game changers" Hillary Clinton had hoped for, but they radically changed the way success will be measured in the primary contest's final round. It no longer much matters who wins the remaining primaries. All that counts now is how many delegates each one contributes to achieving Barack's magic number -- the 2025 delegates he needs according to Democratic Party rules to clinch the nomination.
According the RealClearPolitics.com, that number is 183 delegates as we stand this morning. Barack will most likely lose West Virginia and Kentucky, but each one will contribute more delegates to the final number he needs to clinch.
In all likelihood he will achieve that number by the end of the month. Right now he only needs 26 more pledged delegates to have an absolute majority of all 3,223 pledged delegates available. Barack will cross that threshold after the May 20 primaries in Kentucky and Oregon.
Many of the 270 or so remaining superelegates intend to throw their support to the pledged delegate winner. Even without the additional delegates that Obama will earn in the final primaries in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota, it is likely that enough Super Delegates will move to him by the end of the month for him to formally clinch the nomination.
If not he will almost certainly have picked up the 183 additional delegates he needs by the last primary on June 3. Even using very conservative assumptions about the outcomes of the remaining primaries, Obama would need only about 90 (or 33%) of the superdelegates remaining today to clinch.
During the difficult last two weeks, he has still managed to land two dozen more superdelegates (twice as many as Hillary). Now after the Indiana and North Carolina results -- and certainly after he has achieved an absolute majority of pledged delegates -- there will be no incentive for them to hold back. In fact, there are lots of reasons for them to get on the Obama train before it officially leaves the station.
2). Obama's performance last night destroyed the rationale for Hillary's continued candidacy. Everything rested on her argument of superior electability. After his loss in Pennsylvania, Barack faced gale force political winds. The media had turned. Hillary was on the attack. Reverend Wright threw himself into the center of the debate. But in spite of it all, Obama won an overwhelming victory in the tenth largest state.
Hillary's surprise underperformance in Indiana can partially be traced to the massive turnout of the Obama base of young people and African Americans. But it is also resulted from his success with swing voters. Every age group but people over 60 went for Obama. Independents went for Obama 54% to 46%. And in both North Carolina and Indiana a substantial majority thought Obama was more likely to beat John McCain (55% to 39% in North Carolina; 51% to 46% in Indiana).
In addition, the results in North Carolina indicate that he can actually put the state -- and others like it -- into play this fall.
3). Last night made it politically impossible for superdelegates to deny Barack the Nomination. Even if they wanted to (which most don't) a coup de'etat by superdelegates that denied Obama the nomination would precipitate a massive grassroots insurrection. The African America and progressive base of the party would go into open revolt.
4). But what about Florida and Michigan? Try as she might Hillary cannot unilaterally move the goal posts and declare that it now takes 2,209 delegates to win the nomination instead of the 2,025 majority embedded in Democratic Party rules. But it's not likely that including the Michigan (where Obama wasn't even on the ballot) and Florida (where Obama abided by the rules and didn't campaign) would matter anyway.
Right now Obama leads by almost 200,000 popular votes even if you include the ballots cast in Michigan and Florida. If you allocated delegates according to the vote totals -- giving Obama the votes that were not cast for Hillary in Michigan -- it would take a little longer for him to reach the new "magic" number but the outcome of the race would not change. (Remember Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan as per party rules, but Hillary only got 55% running against "uncommitted".) Obama's lead is simply insurmountable.
Last night any question of who would be the Democratic nominee was settled. The only questions that remain are when and how Hillary Clinton will bow out, and how she will then move to help unify the party.
Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight. How Progressives Can Win, available on amazon.com