Strange headline, right? But it's true. Let's recap the race for president so far: The polls said Clinton would win Iowa easily. She lost. The polls said Obama would win New Hampshire easily. He lost. So much for the polls.
I love politics. It's like watching a steeplechase horse race in slow motion. You can't wait to see who's going to get caught up in the hedges and go sprawling across the track. Voters are showing a stubborn independent streak so far this year, which is a good thing. Neither party can simply count on party members to follow slavishly the choice of the party leaders. Every vote is going to have to be earned. (Sort of, but we'll explain that below). Obviously, it's a long race and anything can still happen. It's sort of like the start of the pro football season. Even if your team lost the first weekend, you're still in the Superbowl hunt. Every candidate's supporter still has hope.
At least until Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, less than a month away. That's when 24 states hold primaries or caucuses to select delegates. By the morning of Feb. 6 we'll have a much better idea of where the candidates stand in the nomination process (and two-thirds of the existing challengers will probably drop out).
In the end, however, it's not about what states a candidate won, but how many delegates they win. So the quick trivia question of the week is -- who's leading in the delegate races? For the Democrats, a candidate will need 2,025 delegates to earn the nomination. For the Republicans a candidate will need 1,191 (the parties have different criteria for allocating delegates to their national conventions).
For the Democrats, after New Hampshire, Obama led Clinton 25 to 24 in directly elected delegates, with Edwards picking up 18.
On the Republican side, Romney has earned 24 delegates from the electorate so far, Huckabee has 18, and McCain has 10. Fred Thompson has garnered 6 delegates, Ron Paul has won two, and Duncan Hunter and Rudy Guliani both have one. But that's only delegates won by direct vote. Both parties also keep a reserve of delegates in most states for key elected leaders of their parties, and a few "super delegates." Many of those have already declared their preferences. If you add in the reserve/super delegates who have already pledged to a candidate, as of Jan. 9, to the ones won by direct vote, the totals are even more interesting.
For the Democrats, Clinton has 145 delegates, Obama 71, Edwards has 33 and Richardson has 13. Richardson, it might be noted, hasn't earned a single delegate by direct vote.
For the Republicans, which have fewer "extra" delegates (and even fewer who have pledged to a candidate at this point), Romney leads with 27, followed by Huckabee with 21, McCain with 10, Thompson with 6, Paul has 2 and Guliani and Hunter have earned 1 delegate. Romney has picked up three superdelegates in Illinois (1) and Minnesota (2) and Huckabee has three from his home state of Arkansas.
On TV, every candidate wants your vote. Behind the scenes, the "machines" of each candidate are really fighting for delegates. So you get some weird results. For example, because of previously pledged super delegates, Obama actually won New Hampshire, walking away with 12 delegates to Clinton's 11.
In the two "direct" elections so far, in Iowa and New Hampshire, Obama actually has had more people vote for him, combined, than Clinton. But Clinton holds better than a 2-1 margin over Obama in delegates committed to her so far for the national convention.
For the Republicans, McCain is considered the front runner right now, the man to beat, but he's actually third in the delegate count, with Romney holding nearly a 3-1 edge over him and Huckabee a 2-1 edge.
Once again, Super Tuesday is going to change a lot of these delegate numbers considerably, but it just goes to show that what you're seeing on TV isn't the full story and so far, at this early point in the race, how citizens have voted doesn't seem to carry as much weight as the political machinery.
Meanwhile, it's Clinton and Romney in the lead by several horse lengths at the first pole. On the other hand, the first hedges are still coming up.