Wednesday, April 23, 2008

 

Hilary Clinton Is Winning the Popular Vote

Michael Barone has good posts here and post-Penn about Clinton's popular vote chances. But I think he does it wrong.

Since the popular vote competition is informal, each side will pick its own rules. Mrs. Clinton has said that MIchigan and Florida should count. Florida gives her 288 thousand and Michigan gives her a 90 thousand margin over Uncommitted, though she will point out that it gives her 328 thousand more people than voted for Obama, who wasn't on the ballot. That's 616 thousand from those two states,using Clinton-supporter math.

RealClearPolitics gave Obama a lead of 827 thousand before Pennsylvania. Subtract the 106 thousand that's just attributed to Obama from caucus states but are not actual votes, to get 721 thousand. Subtract Florida and Michigan to get 105 thousand. Now subtract Clinton's 205 thousand margin from Pennsylvania, and she's ahead nationally by 100,000 votes. She doesn't need Porto Rico any more to claim victory.

Which rules to use is debatable. It being debatable is a good argument for judging winners by pre-set rules rather than ex post judgements. Many Democrats prefer ex post judgements, both as a matter of political style (that applies to judicial decisionmaking too) and because they argued for it in the Gore-Florida situation in 2000. Furthermore, in that election they argued for the most expansive rules possible, to count the most people who came to the polls and tried to vote (though as I recall-- I might be wrong-- nobody realized at the time that if the Democrat definition had been adopted, Bush would have won). Here, a primitive one-man one-vote theory would say that Clinton is ahead, because Obama really didn't get any votes in Michigan. To get round that, you'd have to resort to a theory that what should count is who people would have voted for if their candidate had been on the ballot, and that is perilously close to a theory of how people would have voted if Obama had been as much the favorite in January as he is now.

I think these popular-vote calculations shouldn't matter and it would be fine for the superdelegates to ignore them. But then I thought it was fine to follow the pre-set rules in Florida 2000 too. The Democrats think differently, so they have a big problem-- and it is a problem not unrelated to their political philosophy, so we shouldn't feel it's unfair that they have it.

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