Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is claiming that after rival Hillary Clinton's three primary election wins Tuesday night, her campaign has picked up an inconsequential net gain of only four delegates in the race to win the Democratic nomination.
That would leave Obama with a lead of more than 130 delegates, a gap that the Illinois senator's campaign says is virtually impossible for Clinton to close no matter the outcome of the remaining Democratic primaries and caucuses.
"Our projections show the most likely outcome of yesterday's elections will be that Hillary Clinton gained 187 delegates, and we gained 183," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe wrote in a Wednesday afternoon email to campaign supporters and reporters. "The task for the Clinton campaign yesterday was clear. In order to have a plausible path to the nomination, they needed to score huge delegate victories and cut into our lead... They failed."
Plouffe's numbers have not been confirmed by any other news source. But other media outlets tracking the delegate count have come up with similar, albeit larger, tallies, calculating Clinton's net gain to be between six and eight.
The Clinton camp, when contacted by The Huffington Post, had no immediate response to Plouffe's count. Earlier in the day, however, the campaign put out a statement arguing that the distance between the two candidates would end up small enough for superdelegates - the unelected 795 party insiders and Democratic office holders who can weigh in on the primary process - to change the pledge delegate outcome.
"This race is extremely close and more than 5 million Democrats are likely to vote," read a statement from Harold Ickes, the campaign's senior advisor, and Mark Penn, the chief strategist. "After 28 million votes have been counted, the popular vote contest in the Democratic primary is within one-tenth of one percent. Applying the same level of turnout to the remaining contests, there are still more than 5 million Democratic voters... who are likely to participate in this contested primary race. After 41 primaries and caucuses, the delegate count is within roughly 2 percent."
On Tuesday evening, Clinton scored big primary victories in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island, while Obama won in Vermont. Despite going one-for-four, the Illinois Democrat emerged from the showdown with dent in his political armor but maintaining his delegate advantage.
With 12 Democratic primaries remaining these margins seem unlikely to drastically change, save for a major gaffe by either candidate or a wave of defections by superdelegates. Obama's camp is banking on these superdelegates to take their cue from the pledged delegate count and support the candidate with the lead. The Clinton camp, in contrast, is arguing that superdelegates should support whoever is best suited to win the White House come November, regardless of the pledge delegate tally.
Additional reporting by Max Follmer