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Expanding on an excellent diary by pocketnines that didn't receive enough attention, some democrats argue that superdelegates can place significant weight on the popular vote should Senator Clinton overtake Senator Obama's popular vote lead.

For example, Big Tent Democrat argues that if Obama finishes the primary season with a pledged delegate lead and a popular vote lead, he should be the nominee. BTD adds a caveat: the margin must be at least 500,000 votes to make up for a presumptive 500,000 vote victory Clinton would have achieved in Florida. This false precision has no legitimate place in the selection of our democratic nominee. Even without this false precision  the popular vote totals do not accurately measure electability and deserve little or no weight except as noted below.

Considering the Popular Vote Gives Short Shrift to Caucus Only States

Twelve states caucus and do not hold primaries. Washington and Texas have a hybrid system of both. Obama won every caucus by the following delegate margins:

Iowa (25-14)
Nevada (13-12)
Alaska (9-4)
Colorado (35-20)
Kansas (23-9)
Idaho (15-3)
Minnesota (48-24)
North Dakota (8-5)
Nebraska (16-8)
Washington (52-26)
Maine (15-9)
Hawaii (14-6
Wyoming (7-5)
Texas (38-29)

How can the popular vote be predicted and considered for these states?

Open and Closed Primaries

Open primary states will capture independent and crossover republican votes.  Closed primaries restrict voting to registered party members. Thus, if popular vote is to be considered in selecting a nominee, states with open primaries will be accorded more weight for their electoral votes than states with closed primaries.  States caucus will be accorded no weight at all.

Maximizing a State's Impact on Nominee Selection.

If the nationwide popular vote was known to be meaningful at the beginning, states probably wouldn't caucus and probably wouldn't close their primaries, either. At the very least, though, each state would know that it runs a risk of diluting the impact of its process by selecting either of those two delegate selection methods.

In contrast, according significant weight to the nationwide popular vote, now after the fact, discriminates against those states with caucuses and, to a lesser extent, closed primaries.

But Does it Measure Electability Anyway?

Because the popular vote does note equally weigh support for candidates between open and closed primary states, and does not capture any support at all in caucus states, there is no reason to conclude with any confidence whatsoever that the nationwide popular vote is an apt measure of a candidate's electability.

Although pocketnines' diary  makes an excellent case for why Clinton cannot overtake Obama in the popular vote, for the sake of argument, let's assume that she does, but that Obama still retains a substantial pledged delegate lead.

The nationwide popular vote fails to measure a candidate's electability because:

  1. It ignores the mandate of the 12 states that caucus only, which gave Obama 228 delegates to Clinton's 131.
  1. The popular vote in states that are certain to go red in November does not logically reflect a candidate's electability in blue or swing states.
  1. The popular vote in states that are certain to go blue in November is not an accurate predictor of a candidate's electability in swing states. Each state's demographics, particularly in this election where race and gender feature so prominently, along with whatever talking point is in vogue at the time of the vote, has a far more substantial impact. For example, Clinton's victory margin in Ohio was likely increased by the false NAFTA rumors swirling around Obama at the time of the vote.
  1. Earlier SUSA polls suggest that the path to electoral victory for each of the democratic candidates goes through different states. In sum, the votes in solid red and solid blue states provide, at best, sketchy predictive value in swing states, and the importance of a swing state is going to depend on which candidate is the nominee.

How to Consider the Popular Vote

The popular vote in a certain state is obviously a factor for that state's superdelegates to consider, although to give such a factor controlling force would contradict the very reason for having superdelegates. Superdelegates should consider electability. A state's popular vote may have little or no bearing on the electability of a candidate in the general election. But in the absence of a compelling argument otherwise it is certainly a legitimate rationale for a superdelegate to rely upon.


If Obama has both ledged delegate and popular vote leads, and in the absence of a catastrophic Obama meltdown, I cannot imagine an electability rationale the superdelegates could sell to rank and file democrats that will support giving the nomination to Clinton.

If Obama has a pledged delegate lead but Clinton manages to capture a lead in the popular vote, that alone should not provide an electability rationale that would support superdelegate support for Clinton. However, it would probably provide superdelegates more wiggle room to sell the selection of Clinton as nominee.

But don't let your superdelegates get away with arguing that a popular vote lead reveals greater electability. It doesn't, not under the current DNC rules.  

Originally posted to Bipolar Disorder Democrat on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:03 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Valiant attempt at facts. (2+ / 0-)

      But I think it's even simpler than that--There is no "popular vote".

      1. We don't select a nominee by direct election. There is no popular vote. The nominee is elected by the convention delegates, 20% of whom are unpledged.
      1. Calculating the so-called "popular vote" is impossible. It requires mixing apples and oranges.
      1. The only popular vote that exists in this process is by district or by state (in the case of winner-take-all delegates).
      1. Superdelegates is a misnomer. I realize that's a colloquial expression that is well-established. But to understand the reality of the situation you have to divorce it from the spin. The unpledged delegates are not a second chamber like the US Senate. They are a bunch of delegates who are free to vote however they see fit. Under the rules they have no obligation to follow any calculation of how their state or district voted.

      All discussion of the "popular vote" and "the will of the people" is not much more than spin in favor of one candidate or the other.

      Fact: The democratic nominee will be selected by the delegates at the convention. There is no presumptive or de facto nominee unless he or she has enough pledged delegates and airtight publicly irrevocably committed unpledged delegates to get 50+1 on the first ballot. Otherwise it's just posturing. That's politics. Despite all the hyperbolic moralizing, that's all this is.

      So make your choice. You can sit on your ass, stirring the tea leaves ad nauseum, parsing every word from every quarter, and whining about what "should" happen or you can get out an actually do something. In addition to the big dogs, we have a bumper crop of down-ticket candidates that need help and support.

      The sky is not falling. It's not the end of the world as we know it. (However, it hasn't done this blog any good.) Now back to the usual shit.

      Well fuck it all, I'm still not leaving. I'm too goddamn mean and stubborn to be run off by a swarm of annoying insects.

      by homogenius on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:42:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wrote this diary (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        in part for Clinton supporters at other blogs, such as TalkLeft, who seem to be under the impression that if Hillary somehow manages to eke out a popular vote victory she should get the nomination. They are even suggesting that popular vote estimates should be extrapolated for caucus states.

        I know superdelegate is colloquial for PLEOs, and that they can vote however they see fit. How they might see fit to vote is what I'm addressing in part.

        •  But that goes both ways. (0+ / 0-)

          Both sides have supporters who are trying to parse this and set terms that favor their position. Many in the Obama camp are using their hyperbolic outrage over what they perceive as racism from Hillary and her campaign to frame this in moral terms.

          But it's all just politics. This used to be the norm, not the exception. Most of these people have no freaking clue how ugly conventions used to be.

          Frankly, I'm not sure all this hyperanalysis is worth much. It's just so much wishful thinking. Mostly, I think people do it to convince themselves. I went into this campaign a year ago with no strong feelings and eventually settled on Edwards, Obama, Dodd, and Clinton as my acceptable candidates. I leaned Edwards, then voted for Hillary by default. I'll have no problem getting behind Obama and would probably be more disengaged from Hillary if people around here weren't endlessly bashing her and forcing Obama down everyones' throats.

          Most Hillary supporters I know in the real world are in various stages of letting go of her. But they, like me, don't like to be told what to do. The more these assholes demand that we give her up, the longer it's gonna take.

          If Obama keeps his lead in the pledged delegates, I don't think it would be good for the nomination to go to Hillary (absent the proverbial dead girl/live boy level of controversy). But part of me would still like to see it just to watch some heads explode.

          Well fuck it all, I'm still not leaving. I'm too goddamn mean and stubborn to be run off by a swarm of annoying insects.

          by homogenius on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 10:17:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  When Kerry lost (0+ / 0-)

    Ohio, many many people wanted to him to seek through the courts to challenge the result.  If he succeeded, he would have become President, despite having lost the national popular vote by millions.

  •  Agreed (0+ / 0-)

    Not to mention the effect of "Operation Chaos."  Imagine if Hillary wins the popular vote by less than 100,000 voters.  Obviously in OH, TX, NC, IN, MS, and elsewhere, more than 100,000 McCain voters came out to monkey with our election.

    Now, if Hillary ends up winning the popular vote by something like 3 or 400,000, then I think she's got a good case.

    But that ain't gonna happen.

    •  The popular vote (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      by itself doesn't really make a case, I don't think, unless somebody can connect it with nationwide electability. Certainly such a connection is not obvious, to me anyway.

      •  But the point of the primary isn't about (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Common Sense Mainer, homogenius

        that; it's about who the democrats want as their nominee.  If some or many voters considered that in casting their primary vote, then that's all good.  But to make the assumption that the voters haven't considered that is wrong.

        It's not about electability when you're doing democracy.  It's about what the voters chose.

        Je suis inondé de déesses

        by Marc in KS on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:22:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The superdelegates get to consider electability (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          that's part of the reason they exist. In the case of an extremely close pledged delegate count, or when some issue arises after the primaries but before the convention, they are conferred the discretion to consider electability. Their discretion, however, becomes more and more circumscribed as the pledged delegate margin becomes greater and greater.

          •  But if they did that in the face of a (0+ / 0-)

            lead by one of the candidates, that'd be really ugly.

            If more people came out for one, and the superdelegates chose the other, it'd take some luck to get a Democrat in the White House.  A lot of luck.  People would be pissed.

            Je suis inondé de déesses

            by Marc in KS on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:33:07 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  As BiPolar said... (0+ / 0-)

              The greater the margin between the candidates in pledged delegates, the more problematic it would be for the unpledged delegates to go the other way.

              A lot of the feigned outrage right now is nothing but posturing. Pretending this is anything but politics is silly.

              Well fuck it all, I'm still not leaving. I'm too goddamn mean and stubborn to be run off by a swarm of annoying insects.

              by homogenius on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:51:31 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  One more thing. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is a fantasy argument on both sides.  The primary electorate does not resemble the general electorate in any way.

  •  Keep in mind (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bipolar Disorder Democrat

    There was no campaigning in Mi and Fl. Hillary had large leads there without the campaign, but had there been a campaign it is probable that Obama might have won Mi and closed the gap greatly in Fl even if he didn't win it. look at other states where Hillary started with a 20 point lead and Obama either won or lost by about 5-10%

    "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." Sen Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    by atlliberal on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:12:57 AM PDT

  •  Nominating process is to win delegates (5+ / 0-)

    PERIOD. That is the end of the popular vote argument right there. The campaigns knew that this was a race to accumulate delegates and one campaign has done that better than the other. Sometimes in that race for delegates, choices are made - choices that can sacrifice votes (eg Obama) or sacrifice number of states won (eg Clinton).

    But at the end of the day they were pursuing delegates because that is how you win the nomination. I do not care who is up in popular vote.

    We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard. Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1764

    by MMW on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:13:33 AM PDT

  •  Clinton Not Smarter than a 5th Grader (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bipolar Disorder Democrat

    I made the same argument last week...
    Apples and Oranges

    an excerpt:

    Take another example:   Washington state (which Obama won) & Oklahoma (which Clinton won). Since Washington State is a relatively populous state, it's awarded 78 delegates.  However, since it uses caucuses to determine its delegate selection, it added very little to Obama's popular vote advantage (+90,000 according to Kos), despite his winning by a HUGE margin there (68%-32%; a 53-25 delegate advantage).  Compare this to Clinton's win in Oklahoma, which is about half the size of Washington. She won the popular vote in Oklahoma by a smaller margin, 55%-31%, and came away with a +10 delegate advantage (24-14). However, she gained a +100,000 popular vote advantage since it's a primary state and many more people participated than in Washington's caucus.

    Eventhough Clinton comes out ahead in comparing the "popular vote" between these two states (+10,000), I don't think anybody would debate that her Oklahoma win (+10 delegates) was more significant than Obama's Washington state win (+28 delegates!) (Okla isn't a "big state" afterall!).  Had Washington held a primary (one that actually counted, that is), Obama may have won the popular vote in the state by a margin in excess of 200,000 votes (closer to 300,000? just guestimating here).

  •  Also, (2+ / 0-)

    if Clinton won by 500k votes in Florida, those were votes that happened with no campaigning by Obama.
    Can we say with any certainty that the margin (or lead) would have been that way had the candidates spent time in Florida campaigning?

    I think not.

    Reliance on the votes in Florida and Michigan as though they told us anything relevant to the race we see today is folly.

    Je suis inondé de déesses

    by Marc in KS on Thu Mar 27, 2008 at 09:19:44 AM PDT

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