|The Myth of Clinton's Popular Vote Lead
By Paul Rogat Loeb
GIVEN THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF so many Hillary Clinton supporters that the woman they thought would be America's first female president will not be, the more they hear the suggestion that Sen. Barack Obama's win is illegitimate the more likely they are to bolt. If Senator Clinton's voters embrace that story that "a man took it away from a woman,"
denying her a victory she rightly deserved, they're at risk of staying home come November, or holding back from the volunteering and the get-out-the-vote efforts necessary for the Democrats to prevail.
That's why it's so unfortunate that Clinton continues to claim that "we are winning the popular vote." Because that statement is a lie - and it undermines every word she has spoken about the need for the party to come together.
Look at Clinton's math. She leads only if you give her 328,000 votes for the Soviet-style Michigan election, while giving Obama zero for not being on the ballot. And we count her full Florida margin, though Obama couldn't campaign there and do what he did in state after state by erasing all or most of once-massive Clinton leads once he began to campaign.
But Clinton needs more than claim Michigan and Florida to get her alleged lead. She also has to discard the caucuses of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and my own state of Washington, where a record quarter million people turned out to participate. Had our delegates been determined by a primary, Obama’s margin would have actually been larger. If he'd gotten the same vote share as then less demographically receptive state of Oregon and the same percentage of voters turned out, he'd have had a margin of 187,000 votes. Yet our votes don't count either way under Clinton's math. She disappears them down the memory hole of history in an argument that invents reality as much as her earlier story about running the gauntlet of Bosnian sniper fire, or her recent claim that her husband Bill won the nomination in June, even though his only competition, Paul Tsongas, had dropped out months before..
If the media corrected this, it would be less of a problem, but they haven't, or at least not in the same stories where they repeat her claim. The AP story in my local Seattle newspaper reported Clinton's claim without question, saying only that it included contested Florida and Michigan votes and excluded the Iowa caucuses. An otherwise excellent New York Times story included not even the slightest corrections or caveats. Neither mentioned that polls actually have Obama doing marginally better in Michigan than Clinton. They also didn't explore the impact of roughly 60,000 Democratic voters who crossed over in Michigan to vote Republican, many of whom were participating in an effort by liberal bloggers, anticipating Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" campaign, where they encouraged Democrats to vote for Mitt Romney to continue the Republican blood-letting. Had these crossovers all voted for Uncommitted, Clinton wouldn't have even gotten a majority in that uncontested race.
Clinton's popular vote argument also ignores that this wasn't how the rules were set up, and that if they had been, Obama would have made time, following the Iowa victory that made voters take him seriously, to have made more than three brief visits to California and one to New York, given the size of those states.
Every time Mrs. Clinton claims she has a popular majority, she's shattering whatever fragile ceasefire exists and making it that much more likely that her supporters stay home, come November. If she really wants a united party, she needs to stop, and the media and the superdelegates need to hold her accountable.
Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, and Soul of a Citizen. See www.paulloeb.org