Playing for delegates

PHOTO: Obama and the Clinton\'s marching in Selma, 2007

Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic is reporting that ‘Clinton Campaign staffers and former campaign staffers are being urged by the Clinton campaign’s finance department to turn in their outstanding expense receipts by the end of the week.’ That could be a sign that Hillary has finally given up the ghost. However, the Clinton camp seems confident Hillary will not concede in tonight’s post-primary speech.

With all of that as a backdrop for tonight, I wanted to point all of you to some excellent commentary from Ezra Klein about Hillary Clinton’s popular vote argument. Just yesterday, Clinton’s campaign sent out an email with this lovely message in it:

Tomorrow is the very last day Americans will have the chance to vote in this hard-fought and historic race for the Democratic nomination. Every vote we receive in South Dakota and Montana will help us add to our popular vote total. Every vote helps us make our case that I am our party’s strongest candidate in November.

Klein’s response – which I wholeheartedly agree with – came in the form of two posts and arguments.

Highlights from the first:

…the Democratic presidential nomination is decided by delegates, not the popular vote. There’s a good argument to be made that it should be decided by the popular vote, but for now, it isn’t. And so both candidates pursued strategies meant to attain the necessary number of delegates. If the “votes” in the non-election in Michigan and the no-campaign election in Florida were going to matter, the two candidates would have campaigned in both places. If the popular vote was the key, the Obama camp would have ignored small state caucuses and spent that money running up their totals in larger states like Illinois…

…Trying to decide the election based on the popular vote is like demanding that the NBA finals be decided based on which team brought more of its supporters to the arena. You can argue that that’s the more relevant achievement if you want, but if that had been the metric from the beginning, then the two teams would have been out recruiting supporters and not on the court shooting free throws…

And the second:

If you run the popular vote numbers such that you include Florida, include Puerto Rico, include caucus states, and exclude Michigan (where no one campaigned and only Clinton was on the ballot), Obama is way ahead. If you bend common sense to the degree that you count Michigan, and count uncommitteds for Obama, Obama remains ahead by 46,000 votes. And tonight, he’s likely to pick up even more votes. Clinton’s last hope was for high turnout in Puerto Rico, but as Bloomberg says, that didn’t happen. So this isn’t about who won the popular vote. Obama did.

Did you see that? BOO YA!

Flickr photo by Timothy McIntyre


  1. Ted

    Trying to decide the election based on the popular vote is like demanding that the NBA finals be decided based on which team brought more of its supporters to the arena.

    This is an incorrect and misguided analogy.

    An election is fundamentally based on candidates winning a majority of votes — whether the voters be delegates who have more wisdom and experience than the rest of us and thus more weight, or the mass population.

    There is no element of election in a sporting event. Unlike an election, fan support (voting) is secondary. All that matters is who wins the game, which is based on who has the highest score, which is based on the team’s and individuals’ ability to play the particular game.

  2. Ian

    Yeah, the NBA analogy is pretty lame at best. Incorrect, misguided, or not, its silly and unnecessary. The point is made way before they bring it up.

    I don’t like how many of Hillary’s supporters have this victim complex about Florida and Michigan’s delegates. It goes without saying that it helps her immensely in the popular vote since Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballots there. I’ve said all along that the voters in Florida and Michigan should have their voices heard. The compromise they came up with is not ideal by any means, but it does add some legitimacy to the entire primary and it does help Hillary. I feel like it was a gift to her anyways to seat those delegates at all. It may be too little, too late, but she shouldn’t be relying on them to make some crazy case that she won the primaries.

    Here is an NBA analogy for you: Its like the foul at the end of the Spurs/Lakers game 4 that went no call. Yeah, it denied the Spurs the chance to force overtime, but the Spurs could’ve made one more shot over the course of the entire game and not needed to rely on the intervention of the refs.

  3. Chris

    I still think the NBA analogy is apt. She’s attempting to completely change the metric by which the election is decided. If the popular vote was important, caucus states like Iowa, Nevada, Maine and Washington State would have kept track of the vote totals. But they didn’t.

  4. Ian

    She sort of is trying to change the metric. Here is why the analogy fails: She still recognizes that she needs delegates to give her the election. She can’t really have pledged delegates that have gone to Obama, but she can get superdelegates still. Her whole argument is that she should be handed the nomination because she has the popular vote (which she doesn’t currently), and she won states that are more important in the electoral college for the general election.

    For the NBA analogy, Hillary is basically asking the NBA to overturn the final score cause she has higher profile celebrity fans and more regular joe fans. She understands that she still needs the score to be in her favor in order to win the game.

  5. lauren