Primary numbers add up to different stories

March 5, 2008 6:38:46 PM PST
Senator Barack Obama survived defeats in three primaries Tuesday with his lead in the delegate race essentially intact. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton netted only a 12-delegate pickup, despite winning primaries in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island, according to an analysis of returns by The Associated Press. There were still 12 more delegates to be awarded.

In the overall race for the nomination, Obama had 1,567 delegates after picking up five new superdelegate endorsements Wednesday. Clinton had 1,462. It takes 2,025 delegates to secure the Democratic nomination.

In Tuesday's contests, Clinton won at least 185 delegates and Obama won at least 173.

Clinton's victory in Ohio won her only nine more delegates than Obama, with two delegates still to be awarded. In Texas, Clinton won four more delegates than Obama in the primary. But Obama trimmed Clinton's lead to a single Texas delegate in the party caucuses, with 10 delegates still outstanding because of slow returns.

The candidates vied for 370 delegates in four states: Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. But the Democrats' system of awarding delegates proportionally made it hard for either candidate to post big gains. Also, Texas had a two-step system, with about two-thirds of its delegates awarded in a primary, and the rest in party caucuses.

The results enabled Clinton to reclaim momentum after losing 12 straight nominating contests to Obama. However, Obama maintained his delegate lead with fewer chances remaining for Clinton to catch up.

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain surpassed the 1,191 delegates needed to secure the nomination by winning most of the delegates in the four states. He also picked up new endorsements from about 30 party officials who will automatically attend the convention and can support whomever they choose.

McCain had 1,253 delegates, according to the AP count. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had 271 delegates, dropped out of the race Tuesday night.

There were 35 GOP delegates still to be awarded in the Texas primary.

The AP tracks the delegate races by calculating the number of national convention delegates won by candidates in each presidential primary or caucus, based on state and national party rules, and by interviewing unpledged delegates to obtain their preferences.

Most primaries and some caucuses are binding, meaning delegates won by the candidates are pledged to support that candidate at the national conventions this summer.

Political parties in some states, however, use multistep procedures to award national delegates. Typically, such states use local caucuses to elect delegates to state or congressional district conventions, where national delegates are selected. In these states, the AP uses the results from local caucuses to calculate the number of national delegates each candidate will win, if the candidate's level of support at the caucus doesn't change.