Democratic Primary Popular Votes
Josh Marshall argues, persuasively, that the arguments by Hillary Clinton’s about how she would be winning the popular vote if Florida and Michigan are counted or, alternatively, one excludes caucuses or looks at the Electoral College value of the states she’s won are rather silly.
Then again, so is the idea that the popular vote in the primaries matters. That Barack Obama should be declared the winner on the basis that he has more pledged delegates or has attracted a greater number of voters than Clinton, let alone that Clinton should simply give up on that basis, is a head scratcher.
The rules of the game, which have applied not only since the outset of this contest but for the past several decades, state that the nominee is the person who gets a majority of the delegates at the convention. Because the number of delegates is fixed, we know that this means that the nominee will need at least 2,024 delegates to win. Given the proportional allocation of delegates, we know that Clinton will certainly not arrive at the Democratic National Convention in Denver with that many and that Obama is incredibly unlikely to do so, either.
Why, then, should Obama be declared the winner on the basis of turning out more voters than Clinton? Turnout is influenced by a variety of factors, most of which have nothing at all to do with the candidates themselves. Further, to the extent that Obama turned out more voters, he has already been rewarded with proportionately more delegates.
Despite their name, the Democratic Party has a much less democratic means of selecting their nominee than the Republican Party. They chose years ago to empower party poobahs, via their role as “superdelegates,” to have a large role in selecting their standard bearer. If Clinton can make up her relatively slim deficit in pledged delegates by persuading these superdelegates that she would have a better chance of beating John McCain in November then, per the rules that everyone agreed to in advance, she’ll be the nominee.
If the Democratic rank and file don’t like this process, they’re welcome to lobby to change it. And even to lobby the superdelegates that the popular vote somehow matters. But let’s not pretend that this was the intent of the system.
Graphic via CNN