Sunday, May 25, 2008

If you count her votes twice, she's winning!

Kudos to Jonathan Alter for pointing out that the Clinton campaign's latest talking point -- that Clinton is "leading" in the popular vote count -- is a pack of lies. Basically, Clinton's strongest argument relies on counting all of her votes from Florida and Michigan, but not counting 4 of Obama's caucus states, nor counting any of the people in Michigan who clearly intended to vote for Obama. It was this last bit of Alter's that intrigued me:
With a big win in Puerto Rico, Clinton could possibly erase that margin (plus several thousand more that Obama is expected to net in Montana and South Dakota). She could then proclaim that with the help of Puerto Rican voters who cannot vote in a general election, she is the popular vote winner.

The shorthand many Clinton supporters are already taking into the summer is that she won the popular vote but had the nomination "taken away" (as Joy Behar said on "The View") by a man.
So I went over to RealClearPolitics to check their popular vote counts. If you take only the states that actually have electoral college votes in November, and award Obama 100% of the uncommited votes from Michigan, he's still ahead by more than 170,000 votes. (The corrollary is that you can award Obama substantially less than 100% of the Michigan vote, and he'd still be ahead.)

There are two further questions here: One, should Obama get 100% of the uncommited votes, and two, should Michigan and Florida be seated at all? On question one, I think it's only fair to answer yes, definitely. Democrats were encouraged to vote "uncommitted" by their state leaders if they wanted to vote for Obama, Richardson, Edwards or Biden. Obama always led all of the other candidates, and in the intervening time Richardson and Edwards have endorsed Obama.

Call me a tyrant if you must, but I come down pretty hard against seating Florida or Michigan with any serious voting rights at the convention. They knew they were breaking the rules, they knew what the consequence was going to be, and unless there's a very strict penalty for breaking DNC rules, we'll all be here again when 2016 rolls around.

But at the end of the day, the whole popular vote count is a red herring -- Clinton knew the rules of the game, she just played it badly. Now she wants to change the scoring, so that if you count all of her votes but only 90% of her opponents, she's in the lead. And, as an added bonus, she's going to tell her supporters that she "earned" the nomination but the old boys club (known universally as a friend of blacks everywhere!) took "her" nomination away. Simply awful, and I would have thought, before this primary season, that it was beneath a Democratic politician.

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