WASHINGTON (AP) - Don't look to crown any presidential nominees on Super Tuesday. The race for delegates is so close in both parties that it is mathematically impossible for any candidate to lock up the nomination on Feb. 5, according to an Associated Press analysis of the states in play that day.
"A lot of people were predicting that this presidential election on both sides was going to be this massive sprint that ended on Feb. 5," said Jenny Backus, a Democratic consultant who is not affiliated with any candidate. Now it's looking as if the primaries after Super Tuesday - including such big, delegate-rich states as Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania - could grow in importance.
"Maybe some states were better off waiting," said Backus.
That doesn't mean Super Tuesday won't be super after all. Voters in more than 20 states will go to the polls on the biggest day of the primary campaign, and thousands of delegates will be at stake.
But it's possible Feb. 5 might not even produce clear front-runners.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton leads the race for delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer. She has 236, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates, giving her a 100-delegate lead over Sen. Barack Obama.
There will be nearly 1,700 Democratic delegates at stake on Feb. 5, enough to put a candidate well on his or her way to the 2,025 needed to secure the nomination. But even if somehow either Clinton or Obama won every single one of those delegates, it wouldn't be enough. And with two strong candidates, the delegates could be divided fairly evenly because the Democrats award their delegates proportionally - not winner-take- all.
The biggest prizes among the Democratic states are California (370 delegates), New York (232) and Illinois (153). All three states award Democratic delegates proportionally, with most delegates awarded according to the popular vote in individual congressional districts, and the rest based on the statewide vote.
The wild card for the Democrats involves the superdelegates, nearly 800 elected officials and members of the Democratic National Committee. They are free to support any candidate they choose at the national convention, regardless of the outcome of the primaries.
The AP has interviewed more than 90 percent of the superdelegates who have been identified by the party, and most have yet to endorse a candidate. Many say they will not make endorsements until after their states vote.
Hat Tip: Ms.EBS