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Clinton, Obama camps wrangle over delegate math

  • Story Highlights
  • Obama camp: "This is a wide, wide lead right now"
  • Clinton banking on wins in Ohio, Texas
  • Clinton campaign launches a Web site about how delegates should be counted
  • Clinton and Obama debate in Texas on CNN at 8 p.m. ET Thursday
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By Alex Mooney and Rebecca Sinderbrand
CNN
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(CNN) -- Hillary Clinton's campaign said Wednesday morning that Barack Obama is the Democratic presidential front-runner -- and the Illinois senator's campaign said the race was just about over.

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Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois has 10 consecutive primary/caucus wins.

The morning after Obama won his 10th straight victory over Clinton, his campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters Clinton would need to win massive, double-digit victories in upcoming contests to even begin to erase her current delegate deficit.

He added that his campaign's most conservative estimate for the critical March 4 contests would still leave Obama with a lead of about 150 pledged delegates.

Clinton, Plouffe said on a morning conference call, would have to win three out of every four remaining pledged delegates to begin to be competitive in that area.

"This is a wide, wide lead right now ... I am amused when the Clinton campaign continues to say, 'Well, it's essentially a tie.' I mean, that's just lunacy," said Plouffe. "We have opened up a big and meaningful pledged delegate lead. They are going to have to win landslides from here on out to erase it." Video Watch what Clinton must do to gain ground »

He said the campaign expected the negative tone of the race to increase in the coming weeks, and he accused the Clinton campaign of attempting to "rewrite the rules" because of their current disadvantage in pledged delegates, which are distributed according to vote totals.

Clinton senior adviser Harold Ickes told reporters Wednesday that he believes Clinton trails Obama by at least 75 delegates.

Democratic Debate
Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama go head-to-head in Austin, Texas.
Thursday, 8 p.m. ET

Regardless of the results in the remaining primary season contests -- including March 4 votes in Ohio and Texas that her campaign had called "critical" -- Ickes emphasized in a morning conference call that both Obama and Clinton would need "a number of automatic delegates" to claim the Democratic nomination.

In recent weeks, Ickes and other Clinton advisers have begun using the term "automatic delegates" to refer to individuals commonly known as "superdelegates" -- elected officials and other party leaders who are free to cast their ballot for any candidate they wish, regardless of the election result in their state, and can change their pick at any time up until the final vote.

The next debate between Clinton and Obama will be in Texas and broadcast on CNN at 8 p.m. ET Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign launched a Web site Wednesday designed to convey its argument about how delegates should be counted.

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The new site lists five of the Clinton team's disputed views on delegates, including the ideas that Florida and Michigan's delegates should be seated at the convention despite party sanctions and that there is a "clear path" for Clinton to finish the race with more delegates than Obama.

The site also argues the so-called "automatic delegates" should not look to the primary season vote when deciding which candidate to support, stating, "The fact is, no automatic delegate is required to cast a vote on the basis of anything other than his or her best judgment about who is the most qualified to be president."

According to CNN's latest estimate, Obama has earned 143 more pledged delegates than Clinton. But Clinton currently has the support of 73 more superdelegates -- which translates into an overall deficit of 70 delegates.

Most superdelegates have yet to state publicly which candidate they plan to support. On his conference call Ickes said since Obama and Clinton both need to claim a majority of this group to become the party's nominee, the Illinois senator's campaign should not continue to say the pledged delegate leader should automatically win the nomination.

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Clinton currently leads Obama among this group, although Obama leads in both pledged delegates and in the overall delegate count.

But, Ickes added, "We think Mr. Obama is the front-runner." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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