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February 7th, 2008
03:31 PM ET

What if it's still a race when it's convention time

Unless there is a breakout by one of the candidates, chances are growing that the race for delegates between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could leave each going to their convention achingly short of the 2025 delegates needed to win the nomination.

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David Gergen is a political contributor for Anderson Cooper 360°.

Under the rules, it takes 2025 delegates to win - that's 50% plus 1 of all ballots. While counts vary among campaigns and news organizations, it appears that counting super delegates, each of them is in the range of 1100, with Clinton maintaining a small lead. The candidates challenge is that if they keep roughly splitting delegates, there simply aren't enough left to get to 2025. That's because the votes of two key states have been taken off the board: both Michigan and Florida were stripped of their delegates because their states insisted on voting early. Michigan had 128 delegates (not counting super delegates) and Florida, 185 - a total of 313. Winning before the convention would thus require one of the candidates to get a significantly higher percentage of the remaining delegates than what she or he has achieved so far – can either breakout?

Obama appears to have the best chance of breaking out early: he is running strong among the 9 states that are up for grabs between now and March 4. His strength in those states plus his prodigious fundraising could sweep him to victory. But Clinton has shown enormous resilience and staying power throughout this race, and her organization knows that she could have a major comeback in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

How will it be resolved if they are still neck-and-neck after the primaries? A brokered convention? Howard Dean, chair of the DNC, is fervently opposed. Give Michigan and Florida back their delegates, based on the empty primaries they held - something that would give it to Clinton? The manifest unfairness of that to Obama could fracture the party. Hold new primaries in Michigan and Florida? (That would seemingly favor Clinton.) Hold special caucuses in Michigan and Florida? (Which may be more favorable to Obama)

A tough set of questions. We would welcome your thoughts.

– David Gergen, 360° contributor


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