Saturday, April 5, 2008

Spun Out

There's something more than a little pathetic about attempts to make the election numbers look better for Hillary and worse for Obama. Every day I get an e-mail from an ardent Hillary supporter explaining why, despite appearances, Hillary is winning the race and Barack Obama should just get out. The level of delusion would be funny if this didn't have real impacts on the race and our country.

First, I'm sick of the argument that the whole delegate system is bizarre and unrepresentative of the country. That argument only really makes sense if your candidate is losing. And even then you kind of have to work up to it. This also, totally overlooks the fact that, in addition to leading in the delegate count, Obama is leading in the popular vote. So no matter which you count, Obama is indisputably winning.

So imagine my surprise to read a column by Bonnie Erbe who seeks to make "the point that spinning the math in Hillary Clinton's favor is just about as plausible as spinning it in Obama's favor." What? Hillary can be plausibly considered to be winning based on the numbers? She has figures that are just as plausible as leads in the delegate and popular vote? This should be worth reading.

It turns out that Erbe either defines plausible differently than I do or she just doesn't think things out before she writes them.

She says that the states that Hillary has won have more electoral college votes than the states that Obama has won. This means that she has a better chance of winning the general election. Right. Never mind that this is like trying to use the rules of Monopoly to play Clue, it also ignores the reality of the general election. Yes, Hillary won many of the big states like California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. But does anyone really think that these deep blue states are really going to go for a right-of-Bush Republican come the general election? Those states are Democrat through and through. Losing Massachusetts in the primary certainly doesn't mean it'll go Republican in November if Obama is the nominee. That argument is rather, well, implausible.

Erbe goes on to write that the states Hillary has won have a greater population than the states Obama has won. Therefore... well ... I don't really know where we're going with that one. First, it's kind of a repetition of the point about the electoral college because electoral votes are awarded to states in proportion to their population. So of course the states with more electoral votes have a higher population. It's double dipping to try to count this as two arguments. Second, this argument also seems to ask us to count all of the people who didn't vote for Hillary (either because they didn't vote, voted for Obama, or voted for a Republican) in the Hillary column. Even for the say-anything-to-get-elected Clinton camp, saying they should get credit for people who didn't vote for them is pretty out there.

Last, Erbe says that if everything breaks down and blacks refuse to vote for Hillary and women refuse to vote for Obama the party would lose more by nominating Obama because there are more women than blacks in the country. I don't know what to say other than to refer Erbe to a dictionary to seriously look up what plausible means. And this time really do it.

The bottom line is that it doesn't take much spin to show you're winning when you have more delegates and more popular votes. It's when you get losing and desperate that the arguments stop making sense.

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