Pollster.com

Articles and Analysis

 

Hertzberg: The "Elusive" Popular Vote

Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton , New Yorker

Which candidate is winning "the popular vote" in the race for the Democratic nomination? Back in April, I devoted two columns to the fuzziness inherent in summing up primary and caucus vote counts but, admittedly, struggled to reduce the problem to a simple thesis. This week in The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg does in just under 300 words, what I struggled to do with many more (link added):

In a nominating process, especially this one, the “popular vote” is an elusive phenomenon. RealClearPolitics.com, an independent Web site whose numbers political reporters and operatives tend to trust, maintains six separate tallies. At the moment, Obama leads in four of them. With or without participants in the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington (i.e., states where voters’ preferences were expressed by gathering in corners and the like, and whose numbers can be estimated but are not pinpointed), and with the totals for both Florida (whose primary was unsanctioned by the Democratic Party, with the consent of all the candidates, and where no one campaigned) and Michigan (also unsanctioned, and where Obama’s name was not even on the ballot), Clinton’s claim that more people have “voted” for her is factual. But her claim to be “ahead” depends entirely on a tally for the Michigan primary that is distinctly North Korean: Clinton, 328,309; Obama, 0. However, if the bulk of the 238,168 Michiganders who voted “uncommitted” are assumed to have been Obama supporters—a reasonable assumption—then Obama leads by every possible reckoning. And if only Florida is included, then Obama leads whether or not those four caucuses are counted.

Next week, after the three remaining primaries—Clinton is expected to sweep the largest of them, Puerto Rico’s—the likelihood is that each candidate will be able to point to “metrics” showing that he or she is the people’s choice. Obama will almost certainly have the better case, especially in view of opinion polls showing that his national lead among Democrats has been growing, but the reality is that the two have been almost equally strong. Obama will remain the leader in the delegate count, owing largely to a more astute strategy, and he will be the nominee.

Read the full column for Hertzerg's thoughts on Clinton's claim's regarding the "popular vote" and the "loftier lessons" of it all (via: Greg Sargent/TPM).

 

Comments
Dan:

Hertzberg hits the nail on the head. To which I would add only this: the nomination is decided by delegates, not popular votes. (If it were about popular votes, then Obama would have spent a lot more time campaigning in California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.) That may be an unfair system or an anti-democratic one, but it is the system that we have. Everyone knew that in advance. To argue that a lead in the popular vote should be the basis for the superdelegates' decision-making--especially when such a "lead" potentially rests on a win in a US territory (Puerto Rico)--is rather disengenuous, to say the least.

____________________

JS:

Dan,

Yes, the nomination is decided by delegates, and that is the system everyone agreed to.

Of course, those delegates include permanent ("super") delegates, who can decide on any basis they want to.

Hopefully, that choice would be rational. But I find nothing irrational about calculating a popular vote, for all entities entitled to participate in the nomination. I could argue the other way also, but the point is that it is their choice, and I find nothing irrational about either view.

I am hoping that we, and the media, will stop telling the permanent delegates what they can and cannot do, and just let them vote.

In the end, those are the real rules.

JS

____________________



Post a comment




Please be patient while your comment posts - sometimes it takes a minute or two. To check your comment, please wait 60 seconds and click your browser's refresh button. Note that comments with three or more hyperlinks will be held for approval.

MAP - US, AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY, PR