Democrats may face convention deadlock following close race

James Heggen and Ross Boettcher

More than half of their party’s delegates will be up for grabs Tuesday, but neither Barack Obama, D-Ill., nor Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is likely to come out of Super Tuesday with a clear lead.

James McCormick, professor and chairman of political science, said the head-to-head race between Obama and Clinton may be neck-and-neck after Tuesday’s results are compiled.

“We may come out of Super Tuesday with the delegate votes split pretty evenly on the Democratic side,” McCormick said. “The final results could be less definitive [than in the Republican party].”

In recent years candidates who have won Super Tuesday have run unopposed the rest of the primary season, after their remaining opponents have dropped out. But this year’s close race could mean both candidates will stick it out through the entire nomination process.

“Now it looks like the Democratic race has just as much a chance to go into full convention, which really hasn’t happened for years,” said Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. “This is the way politics used to be.”

If the race continues, Ohio and Texas could play a major role on the next Super Tuesday, which is March 4. If one candidate wins both, the race could be decided, Bystrom said.

“If they split those two states, then it may go to convention,” she said.

McCormick said that Obama’s support has been surging in a number of the Super Tuesday states. According to, Obama’s support in national spring polls has gone from 24 percent in December to 33 percent through most of January and then to almost 42 percent, as of Tuesday. Clinton’s support stands at 44 percent.

“The polls are suggesting on the Democratic side that Senator Obama has been gaining on an upward trajectory,” McCormick said. “It will be interesting to see if that trend plays out.”

Steffen Schmidt, university professor of political science, wrote that he thinks Obama has a better chance of getting the nomination, but that the race won’t be decided Tuesday.

“On the Democratic side the race is too close, and Obama has surged and caught up with Clinton,” Schmidt wrote. “Many analysts with which I have spoken feel that Obama has a chance to win by later this spring but not on Super Tuesday.”

If the race is undecided going into the convention, the Democratic Party may have to reinstate the delegates it took away from Michigan and Florida, Bystrom said.

“The Democratic Party is going to be in quite a conundrum,” she said.

This could be tricky, Bystrom said, because Clinton ran unopposed in Michigan and none of the Democratic candidates campaigned in Florida. Clinton won both races, getting 58 percent of the vote in Florida to Obama’s 21 percent and 55 percent in Michigan, with “uncommitted” in second place with 40 percent.

“She won in states where they weren’t actively campaigning, so is that really a win?” Bystrom said. “If it gets to that point, I hate to say this again, but I think we’re in the same scenario as we were in Florida in 2000.”