Thursday, March 6, 2008

Convention Math: Remember the UADs!

A reader's comment on my last post sent me back to the ever-exciting topic of Unpledged Add-On Delegates (UADs). Those who have suffered through my previous explorations of the subject will recall that UADs are the forgotten superdelegates - the 76 bonus delegates awarded to the states. It turns out that they were dreamt up by Tad Devine in 1988, as a means of rectifying Jesse Jackson's gripe that he was winning states but only splitting their delegates. The original idea was that UADs would be awarded in each state as an extra bonus to the winner of the popular vote. Somewhere along the way, however, UAD allocation was largely divorced from the popular vote. Today, states follow a wide variety of methods for awarding their UADs (see my previous posts for more).

So who cares? Well, I do. And I hope you will, as well. But not, as best I can tell, the national media. The delegate calculators out there seem blissfully unaware of the UADs, lumping them in with the other superdelegates as if they're just sitting on the fence. Most projections I've seen do the same. This is problematic. To the best of my knowledge, only two UADs have been selected thus far, and so they're the only ones being included in most counts of superdelegates. But it's fallacious to think that the UADs will choose between the two candidates; rather, the UADs will all be chosen based on their public backing for one or the other. They don't fall into the pool of undecided superdelegates, and claiming they do makes that pool seem larger and more influential than it is - and, as it happens, makes a Clinton comeback seem plausible, when it's not.

Witness last week's fight over UADs in Alabama, one of the states in which the state executive committee makes the decision. Each campaign selected a single, loyal backer, and ran him as their candidate. Obama controlled six more votes than Hillary, and so his man won the slot. There was no sense in which this delegate was unpledged; in fact, he was vetted at least as carefully as any of the pledged delegates on Obama's slate. We're going to see the same in every state that awards UADs. Given that some of these will be awarded by a vote of a body whose composition is already a matter of public record - a state convention, the members of the DNConvention delegation - we can actually be as certain of these UADs votes as of those of their pledged peers, even if we don't yet know their names.

Here's a quick rundown of UADs in states that have already voted:

Clinton Obama Undetermined

IA: 0 0 1
NH: 0 0 1
NV: 1 0 0
SC: 0 0 1
AL: 0 1 0
AK: 0 1 0
AR: 1 0 0
AZ: 0 0 1
CA: 5 0 0
CO: 0 1 0
CT: 0 0 1
DE: 0 1 0
GA: 0 0 2
ID: 0 1 0
IL: 0 3 0
KS: 0 1 0
MA: 0 0 2
MN: 0 2 0
MO: 0 0 2
ND: 0 0 1
NM: 0 0 1
NJ: 0 0 2
NY: 0 0 4
OK: 0 0 1
TN: 0 0 2
UT: 0 1 0
WA: 0 2 0
NE: 0 1 0
LA: 0 0 1
ME: 0 1 0
DC: 0 1 1
MD: 0 0 2
VA: 0 2 0
HI: 0 0 1
WI: 0 0 2
OH: 0 0 2
RI: 0 0 1
TX: 0 3 0
VT: 0 1 0

TOTAL: 7 23 32

So the states that have already held their initial contests award 62 of the 76 superdelegates. About half of those delegates have been or will be selected by bodies whose allegiances are already known, allowing us to predict that Obama will take 23 UADs to Hillary's 7. Obama's substantial lead in the category is based on two factors - he's won many more states, and more of the states he's won use caucuses or other processes that allow us to predict the selection of UADs.

Now, there are good reasons not to attempt to predict how the remaining UADs will be awarded. The Alabama fight demonstrates that the Clinton campaign isn't about to cede UAD slots even in states it lost, and if it's going to fight, it seems likely Obama's camp will, too. In some states, that's unlikely to matter. It seems reasonable to suppose that all 4 New York UADs will go to Hillary. But do Massachusetts' senators and governor have enough clout on the state committee to secure both of that state's UADs for Obama? Perhaps. And will Hillary's institutional support in states like Hawaii bring her a UAD where it failed to deliver a caucus? Could be. These things bear watching.

Nevertheless, it seemed a worthwhile exercise to award all 62 of these UADs by giving the remaining 32 to the candidates who won their respective states. If you do that, Obama wins them 38-24. That suggests what a headache the UADs are likely to become for the Clinton campaign if she stays in the race. As things stand, they widen Obama's lead by 16 delegates; and if things play out along the most likely lines, that lead would still stand at 14. (The remaining contests are likely to have about as much impact on the margins in the UAD battle as on those of the rest of the delegate tally - which is to say, little or none.) To put that in perspective, Clinton leads the overall superdelegate tally this morning, 241-198. Add in the UADs whose commitment have been determined, and that shrinks to 248-221. Even if she enjoys some success at grabbing UADs from states that Obama has won, she faces an uphill battle - almost all of Obama's likely UADs are already locked down, and almost all of Hillary's have yet to be determined. And to offset each UAD in that Obama lead, Hillary needs to win another pledged delegate or superdelegate to her cause.

So add this to the long (and lengthening) list of reasons why the numbers just don't add up for a Clinton nomination. And every time you see a tally of the 794 superdelegates, look closely to see how it treats the 76 UADs. These procedural details matter more than most people think - by mastering them, the Obama campaign has built a clear lead despite the remarkably even split between the campaigns at the polls.

If you've enjoyed this, please share it with other readers by clicking the 'recommend this' link. You can find more analysis on my blog. As always, I welcome comments and corrections. And thanks to all who have responded, and to the GhostInTheMachine and IrishTrojan blogs for linking to these posts.