Buttressed by a victory in last night's Mississippi primary, Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign claimed on Wednesday that it not only had a pledged delegate lead that would be hard to reverse, but also a popular vote advantage that Sen. Hillary Clinton would have difficulties overcoming.
"Although we don't think this is the barometer on which the race will be decided, we have a big popular vote lead," said campaign manager David Plouffe. "Our popular vote lead is up around a million. Which is obviously a significant edge and one they would have a very tough time reversing."
Plouffe's estimation was much higher than those offered by news outlets. According to Real Clear Politics, Obama leads Clinton by slightly more than 700,000 votes after 40-plus primary elections. That number drops to just over 400,000 when including Florida's results (in Michigan Obama was not on the ballot).
The difference between these estimates and those from the Obama camp, Plouffe offered, was due to the fact that many of the caucus states had yet to tally their popular votes. In Texas, he offered as an example, "we project to pick up a 120,000 popular vote advantage [in the caucus], which is larger than what Senator Clinton got out of the primary." In Mississippi, meanwhile, Plouffe estimated that Obama would have a net gain of approximately 100,000 votes.
With only ten primary elections left in the nomination process there is an increasing likelihood that Obama will end up with a relatively substantial pledge delegate lead. After Mississippi's election his campaign estimated that he had not only erased the losses he had in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island, but now bested Clinton by 161 such delegates.
Faced with these obstacles, the Clinton camp has tried to refocus the political spotlight on the popular vote; the logic being that if they could overtake Obama in that account they could make a strong case to super delegates -- the party insiders who vote independently for candidates during the Democratic convention -- to come to their side.
"They are trying to hold the popular vote out there because they can't overtake the delegate lead," said Plouffe. "They are trying to create a diversion there... But our lead is bigger than most counts have it."
The confidence of Plouffe's delegate and popular vote projections stood in contrast the pessimism with which he discussed the upcoming Pennsylvania primary. In a heavy dose of expectations-setting -- something the Obama camp has been accused, by supporters, of lacking -- he argued that the state was tailored to Clinton's strengths. "They are the prohibitive favorite, they will campaign there very hard," Plouffe added. "We will try to win but our campaign will not be defined by Pennsylvania."
The Obama campaign also sent out a memo to reporters in the midst of the conference call. The document read:
The Clinton Campaign would like to focus your attention only on Pennsylvania - a state in which they have already declared that they are "unbeatable." But Pennsylvania is only one of 10 remaining contests, each important in terms of allocating delegates and ultimately deciding who are nominee will be.