Archive for the ‘delegate count’ Category
The DNC reached a compromise today (May 31st) on Florida and Michigan. It is fair and prudent. The Clinton camp appears satisfied with 50/50 split in Florida, but unhappy about the resolution in Michigan. From the Clinton camp:
“We strongly object to the Committee’s decision to undercut its own rules in seating Michigan’s delegates without reflecting the votes of the people of Michigan.
The Committee awarded to Senator Obama not only the delegates won by Uncommitted, but four of the delegates won by Senator Clinton. This decision violates the bedrock principles of our democracy and our Party.
We reserve the right to challenge this decision before the Credentials Committee and appeal for a fair allocation of Michigan’s delegates that actually reflect the votes as they were cast.” [emphasis added] http://demconwatch.blogspot.com/
Are we really supposed to believe that Hillary Clinton, after stating publicly that the election in Michigan would not count–an election in which her opponent was not on the ballot–is now in a position to claim that the decision of the DNC has undermined democracy? Does she really believe this? Is she actually outraged?
I believe that there is outrage in Hillary’s Camp, as irrational as it may seem at first. Just listen to some of the reports about what went on at the DNC meeting. And I also believe that Bill and Hillary may actually be outraged. The DNC’s decision results in four more delegates for Obama than Hillary would have awarded him. In terms of the delegate count, four delegates can’t be the source of the outrage. The practical consequences are nil and genuine outrage over principle is suspect. So if there is outrage, what is its source? Here is my hypothesis.
Hillary’s Camp has been playing the metrics game for several months now, inventing new metrics at every turn. But the one that she has grown most attached to is the so-called “popular vote.” The fact that this is mythical is irrelevant to the Clintons. (Any statistician or pollster worth his or her salt will tell you that you can’t combine votes from caucus and primary states, for the former simply have many fewer “voters” involved. It is a classic case of apples and oranges. If you did combine them, the citizens of the caucus states could claim that they were being disenfranchised. Further, the primaries had different rules, some allowed independents to participate, some even allowed Republicans to cross over, while others were solely for Democrats.)
The problem with the DNC’s Michigan decision is that it undermines the plausibility of counting Michigan’s votes in a popular vote total. According to the DNC, giving Obama the “uncommitted” votes is an inadequate solution to the Michigan problem. No one knows for sure how the vote would have gone. So it simply took the request of the Clinton Camp, and the request of the Obama Camp, and split the difference, awarding Obama four “additional” delegates. This is meant to make a statement. It shows that the state’s popular vote is not to be construed as decisive or legitimate, for the delegate count does not match the “popular vote” (which in fact is non-existent since Obama wasn’t on the ballot). The compromise was one over delegates, and the way that the delegates were handled signaled that Michigan’s popular vote should not be counted.
The outrage from the Clinton Camp is real, but to be more exact, it is really fury at the DNC for undermining its case about the popular vote. It is not clear how she wants to use the latter at this point, but whether it is for posterity, for the VP slot, or for her next run for the presidency, the popular vote total remains very important to the Clintons. The problem, however, is obvious. By insisting on this false metric, they are undermining Obama. They are making it appear that she somehow won the election, as did Gore, and then had it taken away from her by an unfair system. But the analogy to Florida in 2000 is specious. Hillary and her Camp will have to take responsibility for any damage done to Obama’s chances by continuing to “strongly object” to the DNC’s reasonable compromise.
Trying to do my small part to help begin to unify the Democratic Party, I had promised myself that I would halt criticism of Clinton in print and on the Web. There is, after all, so much to be said about McCain and Co. But this evening I find myself unable to carry through on this pledge. There are two significant reasons.
First, I have grown increasingly concerned that Senator Clinton’s continual references to the so-called popular vote may end up damaging Senator Obama’s candidacy. It has the potential to do so by delegitimizing his victory, that is, by making it appear that he didn’t win the nomination cleanly because more people voted for Hillary. Certainly Clinton is entitled to remain in the race through all of the caucuses and primaries, and if she must, until the convention. However, even though it is clear that Obama’s (increasing) delegate lead will give him the nomination, the Clintons have continued to appeal to the notion that she is entitled to it because she has won more votes. It’s of course not evident that she has won more votes, except according to the most contrived mathematical formulas (e.g., leaving Obama without any votes in Michigan). But on a more basic level, the national popular vote is a myth, or I should say, a mythical beast. It is a chimera. You cannot generate a national popular vote from contests that have included caucuses (which cannot produce nearly as many votes as primaries), contests that have permitted independents to vote, as well as states that have permitted Republican crossovers, etc. It isn’t necessary for the Clintons to make the popular vote argument to see the election through to the end, which is one of Hillary’s proclaimed reasons for staying in the race. The argument is shortsighted if you care about a Democratic victory in November. One can only speculate as to why the Clintons have chosen this course, but it isn’t for the good of the Party.
The second reason can be called the anti-mensch factor. Instead of stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for her comments regarding RFK’s assassination, Hillary has come up with two lame strategies and one despicable one for explaining them away. The lame strategies involve trying to justify her comments by saying that 1) Teddy Kennedy had been on her mind, and 2) all she had meant to do was suggest a time line for long campaigns. I won’t comment on the first, except to say that her comments were a strange way to reveal caring and concern. Regarding the second, the time line argument simply doesn’t hold up. There is absolutely no reason why Bobby Kennedy’s assassination needed to be invoked as a marker. There are many other ways to talk about extended nominating contests. And if for some reason she had wanted to mention Bobby, all she had to do was say that he won the California primary in June. (This is not to say that she wasn’t thinking about a time line. The issue is about the role of the marker, RFK’s assassination, that she chose to use.)
But now I come to the despicable reason. Zachary A. Goldfarb reported on May 25th, in The Washington Post, the following. “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign accused Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign of fanning a controversy over her describing the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy late in the 1968 Democratic primary as one reason she is continuing to run for the presidency. ‘The Obama campaign … tried to take these words out of context,’ Clinton campaign chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ ‘She was making a point merely about the time line.’” [emphasis added] http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-talk/2008/05/clinton_camp_stokes_rfk_flap_b.html?nav=rss_email/components
As noted, the time line argument doesn’t work. And it is virtually inconceivable that some very bright Clinton people do not understand the flaw in their own argument. It’s just too obvious. So it is disingenuous for Clinton to claim that Obama took her words out of context if her own claim about ‘the context’ is justifiably suspect. Further, the reaction to Hillary’s words were viral. They were all over the web within hours if not minutes. In addition, you had papers like The Daily News and The New York Post running banner headlines about Hillary’s “killer gaffe.” McAuliffe’s words were meant to suggest that the Obama people were somehow responsible for the “attacks” on Hillary. It is inconceivable that the Obama organization, even if it had wanted to fan the flames, could have been so successful. There was genuine outrage. I can tell you as someone who lived through the assassinations of the sixties, the outrage was totally comprehensible. It didn’t need any “fanning” from the Obama organization.
But there is more.
According to Goldfarb, “Asked if Clinton has personally called Obama to apologize for the reference, McAuliffe said she has not, ‘nor should she.’ He added, ‘Let’s be clear. This had nothing to with Senator Obama or his campaign.’”
Obama, the first African-American candidate with a real chance of winning the White House, has had to receive secret service protection since last May, long before the other candidates (excepting Hillary as the spouse of a former President). This protection is necessary due to a very real concern, namely, that someone might try to shoot and kill him. As a black American he is uniquely vulnerable. And the Clinton campaign can’t see a reason for a phone call. Why? Because of how they read the politics: if we apologize, then we admit that she may have done or said something wrong. Political calculation trumps basic decency. (The irony, of course, is that they have the politics wrong. How they are handling this will cost them support, especially among Boomers who lived through the sixties.)
As a final note, I watched HBO’s new movie, “Recount,” this evening. I have heard that Hillary has already noted that the movie supports her claims about Florida and Michigan. Nonsense on stilts. The situations are totally different, and a slogan such as, “count all the votes,” had a totally different meaning in Florida in 2000 than it does in Michigan and Florida in 2008. But right now I am just hoping that I don’t feel compelled to write something more about Hillary Clinton.
I have grown increasingly frustrated as the day has worn on. I keep seeing supporters, especially of Senator Clinton, referring to recent polls as evidence that she is more electable. The fact is that we don’t know who is more electable right now because there are simply too many variables, which will be cashed out in different ways in the months ahead. One thing is fairly certain, given the mixed and changing results in snapshot state and national polls, the Democrats would be foolish to select a candidate based on them.
Further, in spite of what we hear from the Clinton people, there is no such thing as a national popular vote. Too many apples and oranges. There are caucus and non-caucus states. There are states that have included independents and those that haven’t. Some have allowed party cross-overs and some have not. These election results can’t be combined into one figure, and especially not into a figure that will satisfy everyone. Bottom Line: if the Democrats back off from using the delegate count in nominating their candidate, and try to substitute a bogus national popular vote, they will be courting calamity. (Few believe that such a substitution will actually take place. But as long as people keep talking about a popular vote, it pushes closure off into the horizon.)
If one must have some numbers at this time, the odds are that the results from Intrade are probably more accurate than any snapshot poll. Of course Intrade isn’t always accurate and its traders change their minds. But it has a pretty good record. Interestingly, in the face of all of the current polls, as of 12:00 AM, May 23rd, the traders think that Obama is going to beat McCain. http://www.intrade.com/
Notice that there have been hundreds of thousands of trades, that is, “bets.”
The figures are in the following order: Bid, Ask, Last, Vol, Chge
Obama to win 2008 US Presidential Election 57.3, 57.4, 57.3, 157381, +0.9
McCain to win 2008 US Presidential Election 38.1, 38.3, 38.2, 202761, -1.8
Clinton to win 2008 US Presidential Election 5.8, 6.7, 6.8, 294285, +1.0
Okay, I am taking bets. Well, if not bets, comments. The evidence is mounting. Webb’s appearances in the national media are increasing. On the night of May 20th, the day that Obama will definitely go over the top in the majority of elected pledged delegates, Webb will be making at least two national TV appearances, one on CNN and one on MSNBC, Olbermann’s Countdown. Webb can help Obama win: a military guy, who is something of a populist, with blue collar appeal. He has been a dogged opponent of the Iraq War, and he shares with Obama the loneliness of the long distance writer. Obama strategist David Axelrod recently said that, “the primary characteristic Mr. Obama would look for in a vice president was someone with whom he was extremely comfortable” (New York Observer, May 13th). Webb seems to fit the bill here also. And for what it’s worth, Intrade has him as a close second to Hillary for the VP slot. (But Hillary fails the comfort test that Axelrod mentions. Not sure if the Intrade traders have factored this in.) [Update, May, 22, Intrade now has Webb slightly ahead.] I am not surprised that there is a draft Webb movement underfoot. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Obama_Webb08/
However, if Webb’s military background proves insufficient, I have a suggestion. I don’t think Obama should mess around. I’ve heard that these GOP characters can play pretty rough. And they like surfing the waves in swiftboats. Obama may need phasers and shields. He will need someone who knows how to use them. He will need someone whose citizenship no one would dare to challenge, given the consequences. He will need:
UPDATE May 19, 2008, 5:00 PM. In comments on this site and other sites, concerns have been expressed about misogynistic statements made by Webb. If true, this would be an extremely serious problem for his candidacy, to say the least. I have been under the impression that claims about his alleged misogyny originated from his opponents in his race for the Senate in 2006. Webb is a novelist. It appears that passages from his fictional works were used by his opponents to represent his views. Needless to say, this is dirty pool. It is called “fiction” for a reason. But if readers have more information on this topic, please reply.
UPDATE May 22, 5:00 PM EST. I haven’t heard any further comments about Webb’s alleged misogyny. And while it is true that he is currently trying to hawk his new book, what he is saying in his appearances on TV are very much in line with what Obama has been saying. Consider their comments the last couple of days about our having negotiated with adversaries who were much stronger than Iran, for example, the USSR and China. And how we must not confuse negotiation with capitulation. Also, consider how both are declaring that the needs of poor folks, white and minority, have not been adequately addressed. To say that they are on the same wavelength would be putting it mildly. (Of course, Obama will have to weigh numerous factors in making the final decision for VP.)
UPDATE June 6, 2008 Washington Post, Kristen Mack reports that at a rally in Virginia, “Obama thanked Webb, saying, ‘If you’re in a fight, and we are going to be in a fight, you want Jim Webb to have your back.’” I still think that he is very much in the running. Regarding concerns raised about misogyny. I have learned that he made some very bad calls about women in the military, as well as unacceptable comments about Tailhook. However, I have also heard that he has since apologized and that his record has markedly improved. Webb was a Republican. He is something of a changed man. The questions is, how much has Webb changed? I believe that his populism is for real. I want to hear more.
UPDATE June 21, 2008. Well, the Webb for VP story just doesn’t appear to be going away. Again, for what it is worth, Intrade today as him as the favorite for VP ahead of Clinton. In terms of the issue that could be most damaging to his selection, his record on women’s issues, the following was reported today in a Wall Street Journal article cited on the Huffington Post. ”Sen. Webb’s spokeswoman points out that he has received “100%” scores from Naral, a pro-choice women’s group, and just last week introduced a bill that would provide four weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees.” “Arming Obama,” The Wall Street Journal, June 21st.
[It’s the middle of the night—the usual time. A bedside phone rings in a rustic motel in a small town in Kentucky. Hillary Clinton answers.]
Genie: Is this Hillary Clinton?
HC: Yes…yes, I am.
Genie: I’m with Genie Local 9, a hard-working, white, American local of the Genie National Brotherhood. Getting involved in politics is against our rules. But every rule has an exception. We have been moved by your pleas to the Democratic Party Establishment to allow the voices of the good citizens of Michigan and Florida to be heard. We will grant your wish. The Florida and Michigan delegations will be seated based on the results of the outlawed primary elections.
HC: Wow, that’s just great! [Laughs, perhaps giggles.] Bill will be so tickled. He’s had a rough couple of weeks.
Genie: [In a deep, distant voice.] However, I must warn you, there is a catch. There is a limit to genie power. We cannot change the past. Your pledges and commitments to the DNC to discount the primaries in Michigan and Florida will stand. So when you are elected president, your name will carry the Barry Bond Asterisk. Every almanac and encyclopedia in the Land will mention that in order to receive these delegates, you went back on your word and misled the DNC, the other candidates, and the American people.
HC: Politicians do this stuff all of the time. Bill was just telling me the other day about his…..
Genie: Wait, there is more. My brothers and I can see into the future. Since you will be the first woman president, young girls and women–who will look to you as a role model–will know that you are The Asterisk President. They will know that you became president by, uh, cheating. And little girls all over the land will follow your lead. They will start by handing in schoolwork that is not their own.
HC: But they will know that I am a fighter, and fighters use what they can to win. So I say, yes, yes, I can do this.
Genie: OK. I will stay on the line. You don’t have to say “yes” again. I will count to ten. If you say nothing, I will take it that this is your wish.
[The sound of silence, and then, ever so softly, Hail to the Chief fades in.]
Here is a hypothetical: Michigan holds a caucus in May and Florida a primary in June. At the convention Obama has a 135 pledged delegate lead (excluding superdelegates) and Clinton has a narrow lead of 25,000 in the national popular vote. Question: Is it legitimate for Clinton to argue that she should receive the nomination based on the popular vote? The answer, absolutely not. To do so would be to change the rules in the middle of the game and deny the citizens of the caucus states their voice at the convention.
There are apples and there are oranges. Typically we know the difference. We have primaries and we have caucuses. And we usually know the difference. Yet, somehow, we now appear to have something that is neither a caucus nor a primary. It is sometimes referred to as the (national) popular vote. The latter is created by totaling the votes from all of the caucuses and the primaries. It is a chimera, a mythical beast, a red-herring with wings, etc. But the folks in the caucus states stand to be, shall we say, disenfranchised by this chimera. Consider, if your state holds a caucus, your caucus will involve many fewer participants than in a primary. When the apples and oranges of primaries and caucuses are combined into one large national popular vote, your state will not be adequately represented. Had the members of caucus states realized this before they set up their systems, they might have reconsidered. But they, as the rest of us, were told that citizens voted for delegates (directly or indirectly).
I have not seen one note in the Media or the Press, not one small asterisk, warning the American people that combining the votes in caucus and non-caucus states is not only unfair to the caucus states, but may misrepresent the strengths of the candidates and undermine the present system. For better or worse, we currently have a delegate system, and we need to play by its rules. By accepting a popular vote lead as definitive, especially a slim national one, the Democrats are inviting chaos at their convention.
The DNC did not send out a warning: Caucuses may be hazardous to your representation. It must now step up to the plate and defend its delegate system.
“The Popular Vote Myth” UPDATE March 9, 2008
In my blog of March 5th I do not claim that superdelegates should automatically support the candidate with the greater number of delegates. I argue that Democrats at the convention should not be swayed by a so-called national vote that is biased against caucus states. One has to make a distinction between the so-called national vote, and the primaries and caucuses that take place within states. In the case of the latter, there are philosophical and prudential arguments for why these results should be considered by superdelegates, although I do not make these arguments in my blog. But this is a different matter than combining the total number of votes in all of the states. Combining votes in this fashion is akin to pretending that apples and oranges aren’t any different because both will do if I am hungry enough.
The issue is whether a so-called national popular vote undermines the representational nature of a delegate system that includes caucuses. It is a question about how we understand the “popular will” given the current system. It is a question about fairness and expectations. We need to discuss these matters now, and not in August.