Commentary Magazine


Math and Non-Math

There are two ways to look at the Democratic race: math and non-math. On the former, Hillary Clinton’s campaign team is usually loath to talk about delegate math. But her people were happy to point out that the gains Barack Obama made in Mississippi were erased by Hillary’s pick up of some late-tabulating delegates from two February 5 states.

However, the real delegate action for Clinton lies in potential re-votes in Michigan and Florida. Should she win in Pennsylvania and those two states, not only will the delegate count look much tighter, but her argument that Obama lacks appeal in diverse, delegate-rich states will get more traction.

On the non-math front, Geraldine Ferraro has been able to give voice to what lies beneath much of the campaigns’ verbal jousting: the contention that, for all his post-racial themes, Obama is simply the beneficiary of racial politics. As Mickey Kaus observes, “If Obama were white, he wouldn’t embody hopes of a post-racial future. Duh! That’s part of his appeal. It seems obvious. Why does Obama dispute it? Why isn’t Ferraro allowed to acknowledge it?” Kaus questions why Obama doesn’t just say: “I think being black helps me in some ways, and hurts me in others. I’m running on my record, on the issues, on my ability to do the best job as President for all Americans, etc.” Well, I think the answer is fairly clear: his record is virtually nonexistent and his stance on issues is practically indistinguishable from Clinton’s.

So Ferraro now has Democrats openly discussing this touchy subject. And that, more than math, is what gives Clinton hope.