Monday, June 2, 2008

Re: Clinton's Popular Vote Strategy

I would add a couple points.

The "popular vote" is a flawed metric. The nomination is decided by a contest for delegates instead of aggregate vote totals for a simple reason: The differing rules for primaries and caucuses from state to state make the popular vote an unreliable measure of in-state support. Some states hold open primaries where anyone can vote, some states hold closed primaries where only registered Democrats can vote, some states hold caucuses that place further burdens on voters, several states do not even record the popular vote. The way the Democratic party has chosen to deal with this smorgasbord of rules is to provide each state with a quantity of delegates based on its population and allow the state to apportion those delegates as it sees fit. As a result, even if two states with the same population have totally different contest rules, one state won't be able to get disproportionate power in the nominating process by virtue of its rules. For example, if we simply aggregated the popular vote, Missouri's primary would have four times as much power as Minnesota's caucus, even though those two states are roughly the same size and Minnesota has more Democrats.

Neither campaign sought at the outset of this campaign to optimize their popular vote totals. Both saw this race as it is defined by the DNC, as a race for delegates, and expended time and resources accordingly. It would have been absurd to do otherwise--the equivalent to playing a poker tournament with the aim winning the most hands rather than gathering the most chips.

Further, it's important to note that (however flawed the concept) any popular vote count which seeks to include every state has Obama in the lead. Clinton's numbers for the popular vote are faulty because they exclude at least four states (Iowa, Nevada, Maine and Washington), a defect which gives the lie to the pretense that Clinton is interested in counting every vote.

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