Monday, June 2, 2008


The Popular Vote: Obama or Hillary?

Back to that question of who has more of the popular vote, Obama or Hillary: Realclearpolitics, has the following table:

Popular Vote
The top heading "Popular Vote Total" is the popular vote excluding Michigan. The third and fourth lines include Michigan, unmodified. The fifth and sixth lines include Michigan, but with 100% of the Uncommitted vote going to Obama.

The second, fourth, and sixth lines include estimates of the popular votes in the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington.

But as Talkleft points out, there is still another wrinkle to the definition of "popular vote": states which have both caucuses and primaries, where the caucus determines who gets the delegates, but the primary has more voters expressing a preference for a candidate. Nebraska, Idaho, and Washington both had primaries as well as caucuses. It seems reasonable to include them if we are measuring popular votes cast either literally or to see which candidate has more support among voters.

Including them helps Hillary and hurts Obama. I use numbers from Talkleft.

Nebraska had a primary in May, as well as its earlier caucuses which actually chose the delegates (see here for a news story).

Nebraska had 38 thousand caucus votes and 95 thousand votes in its May primary. In the caucuses, Obama beat Hillary 68% to 32%, 26 to 12 thousand, a 14 thousand margin. In the primary, Obama beat Hillary 49.4% to 46.6%, 47 to 44, a 3 thousand margin. Replacing caucus with primary results adds 11 thousand to Hillary's total popular vote.

Washington had 238 thousand caucus votes and 691 thousand votes in its February primary (on which, see here). In the caucuses, Obama beat Hillary 67% to 31%, 159 to 74 thousand, an 85 thousand margin. In the primary, Obama beat Hillary 51% to 45%, 352 to 311 thousand, a 41 thousand margin. Replacing caucus with primary results adds 44 thousand to Hillary's total popular vote.

In Idaho, Obama had a 13 thousand vote lead in the caucuses, but only 8 thousand in the primary. Replacing the Washington and Nebraska and Idaho caucus results with primary results thus helps Hillary by 60 thousand votes. The spreads in RealClearPolitics's 6 categories change to Clinton +36 thousand
Obama +74
Clinton +363
Clinton +2538
Clinton +125
Clinton +16

Thus, the only definition of these, once Nebraska and Washington popular votes are included, by which Obama wins is if we exclude the Michigan primary and include estimates from the 4 caucus states.

Of course, all of these vote totals are very close, as are the delegate totals. Their main importance in my opinion is as a gauge of how much each candidate appeals to voters, and really we should weight the later primaries more heavily in measuring that. For someone who believes in "count every vote", though, the popular vote is crucial, more important perhaps than the vote allocated by the rules.

Speaking of the rules, the Democratic National Committee ruling today puzzles me. It seems blatantly illegal. The DNC has said that delegates from Michigan and Florida will only get 1/2 vote each. That's fine--- those states broke the rules. But it is also allocating the Uncommitted vote in Michigan to Obama, giving him the delegates based on that. Since the voters voted for Uncommitted, not Obama, how can those delegates possibly be committed to vote for Obama? The same result could have been achieved by picking allowing the Obama camp to pick the delegates but leaving them formally uncommitted, but why wasn't that done? Or *is* that how it was done?

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