Chuck Todd of MSNBC is my hero. As I wrote after last week's contests, at this point the nomination race is all about delegates. States matter a lot less -- even though states are inevitably soaking up most of the media attention. (A lot of that is a function of timing, of course. Exit polls can give us an early sense of who won a state, if it's not too close, but they're not so good at suggesting how delegates will break down.)

But Todd has his eye on the ball.  And here, a little past 8:30, he gave us his first projected breakdown of the delegates in Virginia.  He thinks Obama will take between 49 and 52, while Clinton will take between 31 and 34 -- basically, a winning margin of around 20 delegates.*

That's a pretty substantial margin.  And while it's still a tiny fraction of what's needed to win -- 2,025 delegates total -- Todd warns that if Obama wins Maryland by a similar margin (which is completely conceivable) and then takes the next few races, as well, he'll have built a pretty decent lead going into March 5.  Even if Clinton performs well in Ohio and Texas, as her campaign is promising, they'll have a lot of ground to make up -- both in those two states and later contests -- if they hope to overtake Obama in the final delegate count.

*Yea, that doesn't add up to the 101 delegates that Virginia has, so I'm not sure if the rest are uncommitted or to be awarded at a later date or what.  I'll keep researching. 

--Jonathan Cohn