A conservative reader writes Kathryn Jean Lopez:
I notice on RealClearPolitics that the Republican race is closer than the Democratic race, both in delegates and in the national poll. Is anyone writing off Obama?
It's true, the polls in the GOP race are a little closer than the polls in the Democratic race. But the GOP race is rigged for the frontrunner, and the Democratic race isn't.
Here's how it works. There are no Democratic states where the winner will take all the delegates. This is why Barack Obama is running ads in New York, even though Hillary Clinton could re-enact Goya's Saturn and still get more overall votes in the state. Two hundred and thirty-two delegates will be awarded on election day, and 81 of them will be split up proportionately: If Clinton wins around 60 percent of the vote she'll get 49 of them and Obama will get 32 of them. The rest of the delegates are awarded, proportionately, by congressional district, and each of them has five or six delegates. If Obama narrowly lost every single district he'd gain 67 delegates. Of course, he'll probably lose big in some districts and win big in some districts, but at the end of a good night he could come out of Hillary Clinton's home state with around 110 delegates. And every single Democratic state awards its delegates proportionately.
By contrast eight of the Republican states have winner-take-all contests: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, and Utah. If Mitt Romney battles John McCain to a standstill in New York and loses by one vote, it doesn't matter: McCain wins all 87 New York delegates. And most of the rest of the Republican states have weird rules that rig the contests for frontrunners: For example, Arkansas has three delegates for every congressional district, and every one of them goes to the candidate who wins the district. Same with Georgia.
So, that's why Romney has to hope that McCain collapses, while Obama can beat Hillary around the edges. It's also why Ron Paul might not get as many delegates as you'd expect: If he scores 40 percent of the Montana vote and Romney gets 41 percent, he gets nothing for it.