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Delegate Math

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Delegate Math

2008-03-05

This primary has been giving me a heart attack recently so I'm going to try and make myself sane by posting something on the Internet. I'll admit right up front that I'm a big Obama supporter, and I would have voted the old John McCain over Hillary Clinton (but not the new, party-line-toeing, I'm-just-as-conservative-as-Bush-I-swear John McCain). This is basically because I don't like Hillary's closed-door politics, I don't like her relative silence on wiretapping and other civil liberties, and I don't like her position on Iran. Obama is also the most tech-friendly candidate out there. Hell, Lawrence Lessig supports Obama.

This part originally had a blow-by-blow comparison of Obama and Clinton, but I'm sure people are sick of that, so I'll just say this: my biggest fear is that we're going to be completely stuck in the mud. I think that if Clinton is elected, it's going to be the same story as 2006: elation at finally getting rid of all that nasty Republican stuff in the White House, only to watch the Democrats give in on important foreign policy and civil liberty matters. Yes, Clinton's a political fighter, and a damn good one, but she only seems to care about fighting on the economic front: health care and tax breaks/hikes. I'm also worried we're going to be stuck even on those fronts because for some reason, everything with the word "Clinton" seems to be tainted to every conservative in the country.

I'm also worried that she just won't be elected. Let me tell you a story: my mother is against gay marriage. She's attending a dinner where George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich are speaking. My father listens to Rush Limbaugh. My grandmother has voted Republican since after Roosevelt. They all want to vote for Obama. See, my parents are Northwest Indiana Republicans. They aren't evangelical Christians, they aren't crazy rednecks that want to blow up Muslims (ok, there are a lot of those around here), they're fiscal conservatives who couldn't stand the closed-door approach of the last Clinton administration. I don't even think they're in the 19% of people that support Bush. Now, people might look to this as evidence that Obama is going to be just as bad as Bush, but I don't think anyone can look at Obama's platform and believe that. No, I think something else is going on here: Obama is actually convincing people with his arguments; with his "words" that McCain and Clinton think are so empty. In fact, they were parroting that talking point to me until I made them sit down and watch Obama actually talk. Now they're hooked. What I think is going on is exactly what Obama is saying is going on: people are tired of feeling like their representatives in Washington are lying to them whenever they open their mouth.

Anyway, now that you've read why I am biased, let me talk about delegate math. Since no one will be able to win based on pledged delegates, superdelegates or the convention will have to decide the nominee. As I see it, there is somehow a question of whether the superdelegates are obeying the will of the people by voting for Obama, or if they are simply breaking a tie in voting for Clinton. After all, they are only apart by about 100 delegates. If Obama remains in the lead by that amount through the end of the Primary, that's a percentage difference of only 3 points: 51.2% to 48.7%, not counting superdelegates. Surely that seems like a statistical dead heat, no? Here's the problem: in a two-person race, proportional voting makes it almost impossible to achieve much higher numbers than that. But more importantly, it comes down to how voters feel about being represented. Do they care about a 3 percent difference? I think you need look no further than the 2004 and 2000 general elections. In 2000, Al Gore beat George Bush in the popular vote by a mere 0.5%. Yet you still had people screaming that the election was "stolen" because the Supreme Court refused a recount in a single state. In 2004, most of the nation was of the opinion that George Bush was the clear winner, despite winning by only 2% of the popular vote, and only 53%-47% of the electoral vote. Clearly the American public loves their small percentages, and the Democratic party has to know that they will self-destruct if they nominate Hillary if Obama has even 50 more pledged delegates than she does.

Hillary, now that fortune is in her favor, doesn't seem to think that a small number of delegates is anything to sneeze at. Let's put this in perspective. Obama won the pre-Feb. 5 primaries by 15 delegates. He won the Super Tuesday contest by about 15 delegates. He won the rest of February by 120 delegates. Clinton's "huge win" in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island last night? That netted her at the most 18 delegates. 18. This is somehow "turning the tide" of the race. Surely she would agree that in the rest of this proportional race, 18 delegates is a significant amount. But if she ends up 18 delegates behind in the count, she will be screaming bloody murder. I know that both candidates have been spinning these delegate counts: Obama says "I won more contests" and Clinton says "I won the big important states." There's a simple way to settle the weight of these arguments, and it's very simple: YOU COUNT THE BLOODY DELEGATES. By this metric, unless his campaign tanks, there's no way for her to catch up in the popular vote. Wyoming (a caucus state) and Mississippi (an Obama state) have 45 delegates between them. If Obama gets at least a 60% chunk of that vote (which he's likely to do, seeing as how Clinton enjoys ignoring those states she's going to lose), he'll get at least 9 delegates up on Clinton, which basically eliminate her victory in Ohio. Finally, let's remember that the post-Super Tuesday contests, which Clinton dismissed as some silly little parlor game that she didn't really care about, had more votes at stake than all of March.

The media has such a large influence on how people vote. They have truly ruined elections. The "Dean Scream" basically defeated the Democrat's chances. Their narrative in the Clinton campaign is going to alter a clear Obama lead into Hillary somehow in the front-runner position again, and that will be truly tragic.

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