Primaries: Symbol vs Reality
In a winner take all system, someone who gets 51% of the votes gets all of the delegates, so the outcome of the contest is largely determined by who got a majority in each state. This year, however, the Democrats are conducting their contest under rules that (roughly speaking) give each candidate a number of delegates proportioned to the number of votes he got. So whether a candidate got 51% of the votes or 49% is no more important than whether he got 53% or 51%.
Consider two recent contests. Hillary Clinton won the Texas primary by a narrow margin, and as a result will get 4 more delegates than Barack Obama. Barack Obama won the Wyoming caucus by a big margin—61% to 38%—and will get about four more of the Wyoming delegates than Clinton. One candidate winning the primary of a very small state almost precisely balances the other winning the primary of a very big one—because what really matters this time around is not just whether you won but by how much.
To complicate the matter even more, Texas allocates 2/3 of the Democratic delegates by primary and 1/3 by caucus. The caucus process is complicated and multi-stage, with the result that the actual allocation of delegates will not be known for some months. But it looks, judging by the division of votes, as though Obama will get more of the caucus delegates than Clinton, and may end up with a majority of the Texas delegates despite having lost the primary.
Is everyone but me crazy? Probably not. It seems almost certain that the final decision will be made by the "superdelegates," and the symbolism of who won which state may well affect it.