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:
North Dakota (8-5)
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:
- It ignores the mandate of the 12 states that caucus only, which gave Obama 228 delegates to Clinton's 131.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.