Why is Obama still the front-runner?

Friday, April 25th, 2008 · 47 Comments »

One of the first political facts I learned was this: winning the California primary in June 1968 meant Robert Kennedy had a serious shot at taking the nomination, even though he’d entered the race late and was behind in delegates.

But of course Bobby was murdered a few hours later, so that was the end of that.

I learned about this as a child because my parents were trying to explain to me why another Kennedy had been killed and what it meant for the election.

“Why did California matter so much?” I asked them. “How could he have gotten the nomination if Humphrey already had the party behind him? And what about McCarthy?”

It was thus that I learned about the realpolitik of nominating contests. A lot has changed in the process since 1968, and all to the good. More actual voting, fewer smoke-filled rooms. But what hasn’t changed is the purpose of the whole thing: to settle on the candidate with the best chance to win in the general election.

If I had a time machine and could go back to 1968 or 1972 to chew over a thought experiment with one of those old pros, the conversation might go like this:

Violet: Okay, hypothetical situation. Let’s say we’ve got two strong candidates. Candidate A wins the Iowa caucus. Candidate B wins New Hampshire. Then Candidate A catches fire and in February wins a bunch of caucuses and small primaries in mostly Republican states. Racks up the lead in delegates. But then Candidate B comes roaring back and wins New York, California, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania. Who’s the front-runner?
Old Pro from 1968/72: Are you kidding me?
Violet: No, really — who’s the front runner?
Old Pro: Candidate B, of course. What’s the matter with you?
Violet: But Candidate A leads in pledged delegates!
Old Pro: Candidate A is the guy who had a good February? But then loses in all the big states?
Violet: Right.
Old Pro: You’re actually asking me this question?
Violet: But don’t the pledged delegates count?
Old Pro: You’re talking about nominating the guy who lost New York, California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and Florida? Jesus! You’re outta your mind!
Violet: But what about his delegates?
Old Pro: Fight it out at the convention if you have to. Geez. That’s what conventions are for. Look, you don’t get to be the nominee because you were popular in February in Utah. For chrissake, if you can’t win the Democratic primaries in California or New York or Massachusetts or Florida or Texas or Ohio or Pennsylvania, you don’t get to be the Democratic nominee. Unless you’re Hubert Humphrey. Wait a minute, Humphrey isn’t still alive, is he?
Violet: No. But the party bosses really love Candidate A. They say Candidate B needs to drop out so Candidate A can be the nominee.
Old Pro: They want the winner of all the big states to drop out so the party favorite from February can be the nominee? Goddamnit, it is Humphrey, isn’t it? Christ, he must be like 100 now.
Violet: No, he’s dead. See, the two candidates we’ve got are both strong. They both have a lot of devoted supporters and they’re really close in pledged delegates and popular votes.
Old Pro: What do their numbers look like against the Republican?
Violet: Close, though when you look at the state-by-state polls and the exit data, Candidate B looks stronger in a match-up against the Republican than Candidate A.
Old Pro: And you’re still asking me who the party needs to nominate?
Violet: Well, the supporters of Candidate A say that if Candidate B will just drop out, then the party will be able to get behind Candidate A.
Old Pro: It is Humphrey!

And so on.

Look, I’m not ignoring the fact that Obama has fervent support. I’m just trying to get at the sheer freak factor of the insistence that he is the de facto nominee, even after losing all the big states. I’m too old and my head is too full of memories for me not to recognize the surpassing strangeness of it.

Maureen Dowd is, of course, an emotionally disturbed individual, but she does provide a window into the babbling stream-of-consciousness irrationality of the Hillary Haters. As such, her recent Dr. Seuss column is noteworthy. Hillary has just won Pennsylvania by 10%, capping a streak that’s seen her take every single major state and swing state (except Illinois). And MoDo’s response is to beg Hillary to quit. Please drop out, O Winning Candidate, so we can nominate the guy who keeps coming in second.

You know, after 2000 I didn’t think American politics could get any weirder. But I was wrong. Weird? Hell, we live here now. Weird City. Permanent residence.

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47 Responses to “Why is Obama still the front-runner?”

  1. Lost Clown says:


    *wipes tear from eye and sighs*

    Why are people so stupid?

  2. Megan says:

    Wow, Maureen Dowd makes Obama sound like a child — bitter, pleading, why? ‘why can’t I just be president?’ why do I have to put up with HER?

    And she supports him? It would seem she wants to hand him a country because he’s just so cute.

  3. Andre says:

    Of course, in 1968 we really weren’t sure how we were going to pull it off, but we knew that if Bobby won CA, then we had made a crack in the dam, and a pretty big crack, in fact a huge crack. Candidate B would seem to have quite a few cracks in that current dam, and I’m just waiting for when the whole thing finally falls apart, the ‘dam’ that is.

  4. sister of ye says:

    Excellent post. The political bizarro universe took hold under Reagan and has now spun totally out of control.

    I remember watching the Dem convention with my mom in 1968 on our B&W TV. There was a sense that politics really mattered, especially that year, after MLK and RFK, and with Vietnam still costing us so many of our brothers.

    That’s what finally won me over to Clinton, her assertion that both ideals and practical details matter, that pushing the first means nothing if you don’t follow thru with the second – the point behind her MLK/LBJ comment.

  5. motherlode says:

    Priceless, Violet! If only the “leaders” of the party had memories as sound …

  6. Level Best says:

    And the answer (once again) is sexism! Women are expected to sacrifice everything for men and children and never put themselves first, ad nauseum. If there were two male Dem’s in this situation, there is no way any reasonable person would expect one to bail out at this point.

  7. LSophia says:

    HYSTERICAL!!!!! OMIGOD, I’m sitting here shaking with laughter.

    Please, please, please, please, someone send this to our so-called Party “leaders.” Please!

  8. vote present says:

    that just about sums it up. I think the convention could be decided by the people in the funny hats from Guam.

  9. Adam says:

    Obama won Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, and he’s going to win Oregon. Those are all potential swing states.

    But let’s forget about the primaries for a second. If your argument is electability, then lets look at who leads general election polls in swing states.

    Hillary does better than Obama in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. That’s 90 EV, although she’s not guaranteed to win all of those and Obama could win some of those.

    Obama does better than Hillary in Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. That’s 98 EV (same disclaimer about some falling Hillary’s way or not Obama’s way).

    So, let’s please not pretend that Hillary is polling better in all the swing states, because she’s not. Not by a long shot. It’s a decidedly mixed bag. Yes, Hillary would win New York and California, but so would Obama, just like they both would win Illinois. The electability argument is at best ambiguous, and at worst a mirage, which brings us back to where we started – Obama has more votes and more delegates.

    Maureen Dowd’s column was many things (bizarre, rambling, hackneyed, incoherent) but pro-Obama was not one of them.

  10. CognitiveDissonance says:

    Hysterical, but sadly true! That so many people don’t see what is going on here is bizarre in the extreme. Sometimes I think I’ve woken up in a parallel universe.

  11. KC says:

    Good gods, I was laughing so hard by the last line of that ‘exchange’ my daughter asked me if I was okay.

    It is Humphrey!

    I’d so buy a t-shirt with that on it.

  12. gmanedit says:

    I don’t think it’s primarily sexism. This guy from Newark has a smart, down-to-earth take on it: Geraldine Ferraro is Right
    “Here’s what I think really happened. A bunch of guys — none of them Bill Clinton fans — decided that the Democratic Party needs a candidate who isn’t named Hillary.”

  13. Violet says:

    Adam, a Democrat who can’t take Ohio and Florida will not win the general election. Obama is cooked in those states.

    And he won’t take Pennsylvania either. You need to look at the exit polls.

    As for Virginia, I live here. No way is it going to Obama.

    Michigan and New Mexico both belong in Hillary’s column, not Obama’s.

    The best current state polling nationwide shows Hillary beating McCain on the electoral map, but Obama struggling. His numbers are going down, not up. He can’t win the general election with college students and AAs. Won’t happen.

    Obama has more delegates solely because of the effed up caucus system, which is doomed now that people see what a problem it is.

    The Democrat who loses New York, California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachussets, and Ohio has no business being the party’s nominee.

  14. Adam says:


    You’re right that Obama is cooked in Florida (even Hillary is a longshot there) and has little chance in Ohio. But consider this: if Gore had taken Colorado or Nevada or New Hampshire, he would have won the 2000 election, despite (ahem) “losing” Ohio and Florida.

    That is precisely Obama’s path to victory. He has polled consistently better than McCain in Colorado, New Hampshire, and Iowa. For what it’s worth, Clinton is behind McCain in all three (as well as in Oregon and Wisconsin). She needs Ohio to win, which is acceptable because she polls better there. It’s just a different path to victory, not normatively better or worse.

    If you look at the polling data from Pennsylvania over the course of the last month or so, Obama tends to beat McCain. Right now she loses, but both Hillary and Obama are at their low ebb in the state. The effect of Hillary’s attack ads will fade, and both candidates will rebound there. PA is a battleground, but it’s likely to be blue for either candidate. More reliably so for Hillary, to be sure, but I’d be happy to wager you any amount of money straight-up on the results in PA in a McCain/Obama race. He’s much better than even money there, based on the polling trends I’ve seen.

    I’m from Virgina too (not living there now). What part of VA do you live in? Northern VA is trending Democratic and is the fastest-growing part of the state by far. Obama has an outside shot in the state – worse than even money, but a real chance. Hillary has basically no chance.

    Yes, Hillary won NH and NM, but in the general election, Obama does better. Just like Hillary does better in the GE in Missouri than Obama does, even though Obama won there. Again, primary wins do not equate with GE strength.

    Obama does not have more delegates solely due to the “effed up caucus system”. You should really study the numbers before making claims like that. Obama has more popular votes than Hillary in primaries alone, even if you count Florida. You may recall, Obama took the lead over Hillary during that win streak, by running up the score in big PRIMARY wins.

    If every state had a primary, Obama would have a smaller pledged delegate lead, but an even wider popular vote lead. For example, you end up replacing that 35 point, 40,000 vote Obama win in Colorado with a 16 point win that gives a margin of 150,000 votes. States like Washington and Iowa and Colorado were going to be Obama states whether they had a primary or a caucus. With the obvious exception of Texas and the possible exception of Maine, the demographics of the caucus states simply lined up better with the Obama supporters than the Clinton supporters.

    As for the idea that it was red states Obama was winning – delegate allocations are already weighted by Democratic vote totals as oppose to population. The mere fact that Obama is winning in elected delegates shows that he has done very well with the base. Hillary has done even better, but Obama’s stronger appeal to independents has put him over the top. There’s nothing wrong with appealing mainly to the base like Hillary has done, but it’s silly to denigrate the coalition Obama has used to get his votes, or to imply that it won’t fly in November.

    “The Democrat who loses New York, California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachussets, and Ohio has no business being the party’s nominee.”

    You listed four states that either of them will win, one that either of them will lose, and only three battleground states. Hillary will need two of them (likely PA and OH), but Obama will only need one of them (likely PA), because he will Carry Iowa and Colorado and Nevada and New Hampshire, all of which are likely losers for Hillary. See, different paths to victory, neither normatively better than the other.

  15. Violet says:

    Goodness, is Axelrod paying by the word now?

    Adam, you could have just posted a link to the Obama campaign memo from this week, the one that caused howls of laughter at MyDD for cherry-picking assorted polls from the past 4 months to create the illusion that Obama is ahead.

    Unfortunately, if Obama expects to win that way he’ll need my time machine.

    Look, it’s not working. I know your job is to go around and spin that Obama is still the favorite, but it’s not working. All the horseshit in the world can’t cover up the fact that the man can’t win a primary in a major state to save his life. And his numbers are tanking.

    A couple of suggestions before you go:

    1. People on this blog — even female people! — understand the caucus system and why it’s fucked up and how Obama has profited from it. Your paragraphs 6 and 7 are an insult to their intelligence.
    2. Hillary’s attack ads? In Pennsylvania? Are you fucking kidding me?

  16. Adam says:

    Violet, why the attacks? I haven’t been at all disrespectful to you, and I’ve never denigrated Hillary’s chances in the GE. I’m not associated with any campaign. I haven’t even given money to anyone (I’m waiting for the GE to do that). Please, address the ideas, don’t attack the person (with incorrect assumptions, at that).

    You say my paragraphs 6 and 7 are an insult to people’s intelligence. Yet the counts at RCP and other sources back up my claim – Obama is in fact winning the popular vote without most caucuses counted. You need Michigan’s vote, with Obama’s name off the ballot, to make the difference.

    I’m not cherry picking polls. Here are all the reputable (i.e. nonpartisan) polls of PA in the last two months, for a McCain/Obama match:

    Obama +4
    McCain +8
    McCain +1
    Obama +7
    Obama +8
    McCain +10

    A lot of variation there, as befits the period where ads were carpetbombing the state. But Obama’s numbers there have promise. Clinton’s numbers are better, but she loses in some of those polls too.

    Again, lots of variation, lots of noise. And yes, Hillary’s man/woman on the street “Obama’s comments were elitist” ad certainly counts as a negative ad. My feeling is that BOTH Democratic candidates will trend upward in PA from here. The negativity of the primary contest will fade from people’s minds, and they will vote to end the war. It’s pretty simple, really.

    And my point about Iowa and Colorado stands. The only recent Colorado poll from a reliable source is a Rasmussen poll. It has Obama +3 and Hillary -14 against McCain. Driving around here and looking at signs in yards, that sounds right. The recent SUSA and Rasmussen polls in Iowa have Obama at +7 and +4, respectively, and Hillary at -6 and -15. If you think I am cherry picking polls, then please, find a recent poll from a reliable source that disagrees with those results.

    Again, different paths to victory. I am NOT, repeat NOT saying that Hillary can’t win a general election. I’m saying that Obama can, and that they would do it in different ways, as befits their different demographic profiles of support.

  17. Roxie says:

    You are a genius, Violet, and I love your ear for dialog. Keep it real, sister/bitch.

  18. Violet says:

    Violet, why the attacks?

    What attacks?

    If you’re really not one of those astro-turf guys, then you’re losing out on some money you could be making. Cause you sound exactly like them.

    I said, “Obama has more delegates because of the caucus system.” If the caucus states had all held primaries instead of caucuses, the reasonable expectation is that Hillary would be ahead in delegates now (she’s almost even with Obama as it is). That’s because the caucus system is fucked up; it’s not representational; it favors Barry overwhelmingly because of the kind of people who go to caucuses (and because of the tricks they can play there). You haven’t replied to that, but instead you keep talking about the existing popular vote sans caucus states. Not helpful.

    You mention Hillary’s “attack ads” but don’t mention Obama’s, yet he’s run a consistently negative campaign.

    You talk about Hillary losing PA and Obama besting her there against McCain, but the current numbers out of PA show Hillary beating McCain 47-42 and McCain beating Obama 43-42.

    So it seems to me you are doing lots of spinning.

  19. Violet says:

    Of course Hillary would also be ahead — way ahead — if we had winner-take-all delegate apportioning, but I’m not sure I would advocate going to that system.

    But the caucus crap needs to GO.

  20. julia says:

    Adam: Obama is going to win Oregon?! Sweetheart, it’s only April 25th – our primary is on May 20th.
    A lot can happen in one month. Oregon has many feminists, many more working class people than Washington, there isn’t much money here and it’s a lot like Pennsylvania. We suffer in this low income, gray, rainy, expensive state.
    Call me on May 21st.

  21. Gayle says:

    Oh my.

    If Obama’s win is dependent on New Hampshire, he really is toast.

    McCain will win New Hampshire regardless of who the Dem candidate is. Not because he’s a Republican (those days are over, NH is purple now and trending blue).

    They have an odd but enduring affection for McCain. The maverick act appeals to them.

  22. Adam says:

    @julia – You’re right that there are plenty of Hillary supporters in Oregon, but if Obama’s numbers trend down by any significant amount in the weeks before the Oregon primary, it will be the first primary in the nation where that happened.

    @Violet… you seem to be responding to what you expect me to say, as oppose to what I am saying.

    Violet, why the attacks?

    What attacks?

    You called my arguments horseshit; is that a substantive comment, or a welcoming one? You also accused me of being some sort of viral ad spreader.

    You mention Hillary’s “attack ads” but don’t mention Obama’s, yet he’s run a consistently negative campaign.

    There’s lots of things I didn’t mention. You acted like I brought up an outright lie when I mentioned Hillary’s attack ads. (Your exact words were “are you fucking kidding me?”) Once I bring up an example, your defense shifts to “yeah, but Obama is running more negative stuff.”

    While I think Hillary’s attacks are worse, that’s not my point at all. What is the point is, exactly as I said, “My feeling is that BOTH Democratic candidates will trend upward in PA from here. The negativity of the primary contest will fade from people’s minds…” Unless you disagree with that, perhaps you should be agreeing with me in stead of accusing me of throwing spin.

    You talk about Hillary losing PA and Obama besting her there against McCain

    Uh… no. I never said that. Hillary does better than Obama in Pennsylvania. Look at my first post, where I said, “Hillary does better than Obama in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.” Again, you’re responding to what you expect I said, not what I actually said.

    but the current numbers out of PA show Hillary beating McCain 47-42 and McCain beating Obama 43-42.

    You shouldn’t really depend on one poll – it’s a small sample size. I gave you the last six Obama v. McCain polls in PA, which gives you a pretty good set of data to work with. Point being, Clinton is a slight favorite in PA, and Obama is a tossup, but both of them should improve.

    If the caucus states had all held primaries instead of caucuses, the reasonable expectation is that Hillary would be ahead in delegates now (she’s almost even with Obama as it is).

    Look, this is an argument that is worth making, but to say it is the “reasonable expectation” and not defend it is just not very convincing. Again, Obama polls better than Clinton in Colorado, Iowa, Washington, Wyoming, Idaho… all these caucus states that Obama won.

    It’s not JUST the caucus process that led to Obama’s victories. It’s reasonable to expect that Obama would have won most, if not all, of those contests had they been primaries. He is still polling much better in those states, even now. It’s not like these victories that Obama scored conflicted with polling data.

    Now, the MARGIN of those victories would have been smaller if they had been primaries, and as such Obama’s elected delegate lead would be much lower, and possibly negative. (If you really want to convince me of that, do the math! Figure out how far Clinton would have had to cut into Obama’s margins in caucus states to kill his pledged delegate lead. My guess is that the race would be EXTREMELY close.)

    On the other hand, the raw vote counts in Obama’s favor would be larger, because turnout is much greater in primaries. Even a narrow primary win delivers many more popular votes than a blowout caucus win. So Obama would be the one holding that card in pitches to the superdelegates.

    the caucus system is fucked up; it’s not representational

    True to some degree. Then again, neither are closed primaries, which benefit Hillary.

  23. Lost Clown says:


    She won the popular vote in WA, which had 100,000s more participants then the caucuses. So you are wrong in that aspect.

  24. Lost Clown says:

    Also Adam if you have read HuffPo lately (which is generally pro-Obama) you would know that Obama will not definitely win MA.

    To quote from the article:

    9. Barack Obama is currently in a dead heat with John McCain, according to a recent respected poll, in Massachusetts (actually, the results were McCain 46% and Clinton 44%), while Senator Clinton leads in Massachusetts by 15%.

    Dude, they even voted for McGovern. That’s just sad.

  25. Lost Clown says:

    That should say “Obama 44%”

  26. kat says:


    Most recent Rasmussen numbers have him a point away from McCain. The assertion that he’s a “shoe in” for beating McCain is…well…fuzzy.

  27. Adam says:


    You seem to be confusing WA (Washington State) with MA (Massachusetts). You’re right, of course, that Hillary won Massachusetts.

    Obama won Washington, which held a caucus. He also polls much better there than Hillary – it’s a walkover win for him (13 points and 7 points in the two April polls) while Hillary is in a statistical dead heat with McCain (+3 and -1 in the same polls).

    What “respected poll” does the HuffPo article refer to? The two April polls by SUSA and Rasmussen have Obama winning Massachusetts, by 12 and 2 points respectively. This “respected poll” may be targetpoint or some other politically motivated polling source.

  28. Violet says:

    Adam, I don’t have time this morning to respond to everything, but “horseshit” and “are you fucking kidding me” is how I talk.

    This is what you said about Pennsylvania:

    If you look at the polling data from Pennsylvania over the course of the last month or so, Obama tends to beat McCain. Right now she loses, but both Hillary and Obama are at their low ebb in the state. The effect of Hillary’s attack ads will fade, and both candidates will rebound there.

    She loses, Obama beats McCain, and the effect of her attack ads will fade. Yep, that’s what I thought you said.

    Look, this is an argument that is worth making, but to say it is the “reasonable expectation” and not defend it is just not very convincing.

    As opposed to asserting in passing that since caucuses are an accurate representation of the state’s demographics then the results would be the same?


  29. Adam says:

    Oh, crap, you’re right. I put “she” there; it was supposed to be “he”. That was a typo on my part.

    If you want support for that claim, just look at the several other places where I said that Hillary does better. Heck, two sentences later I say that it will more reliably go to Hillary. I would think that it was obvious that was a typo by the context of the rest of the message, as I was directly responding to your citation of the most recent poll, where Hillary wins. At any rate, sorry for the confusion.

    As opposed to asserting in passing that since caucuses are an accurate representation of the state’s demographics then the results would be the same?

    All the polling data both before and after those caucus wins showed Obama ahead. Obama polls better in those states versus McCain that Hillary does. It’s not like I’m pulling this out of my ass. I’ve stated multiple times that the margins would be lower if it had been a primary, but there’s no reason to think the results would have reversed.

    I maintain what I’ve said all along – a 50 primary system would mean Obama would have a smaller elected delegate lead, but a much larger popular vote lead.

  30. Lost Clown says:

    Adam, I LIVE in WA and we held both. Like I said appx 400,000 more people participated in the primary, and she won the popular vote.

  31. Lost Clown says:

    Yes, because the HuffPo has not been Obama-mad this entire election cycle.


  32. Adam says:


    The editors of HuffPo are certainly pro-Obama, but they publish plenty of pro-Hillary essays, too. At any rate, I asked a simple question: what “reputable poll” do you refer to? The reputable polls I’ve seen have Obama beating McCain in MA.

    It’s a bit silly to refer to the results of a non-binding beauty contest that produced zero delegates as evidence of Clinton support. Obama’s demographics line up well with Washington’s, he’s consistently polled above Hillary there, he won the caucus, he still polls better against Hillary, and he polls better against McCain than Hillary does. I’ll take the results of all of those things, you can have the beauty contest.

  33. Lost Clown says:

    The primary is a better reflection of the will of WA voters, since caucuses are an exercise in privilege. I know plenty of people who had to work and could not go to the caucus.

    You call it a beauty contest. I think we should do what the republicans do, since they also take delegates from the primaries.

    Caucuses benefit the middle class and higher, men, and students. All Obama’s constituencies.

    Writing off the primary that working people got to participate in as a ‘beauty contest’ is classist and disgusting. You are an elite snob just like your disgusting candidate. You can’t win without us working slobs, so good luck with that. Y’all keep insulting us. That’ll help.

  34. Red Queen says:

    Adam- as a WA resident you surely are aware of the Obama bullies locking Hillary voters out of caucuses here or just plain screaming and bullying them at the caucuses until they made little old ladies cry?

    If that is what it took for Obama to win- then he cannot win in a general election where no one is there to bully you in the voting booth.

  35. Adam says:


    I don’t live in WA.


    Why is calling it a “beauty contest” classist? It’s a fairly common name for a nonbinding primary. I didn’t come up with it

    It counts for nothing simply because everyone knew in advance that it counted for nothing. It took place AFTER the caucuses that decided the delegates. There was no effort by the Obama campaign’s massive ground organization to get the vote out. Compared to primaries that actually mattered in other states, the participation (as a percentage of the Democratic electorate) was exceptionally low.

    Again, Obama consistently does better in polls in Washington state, both before and after the caucus, and whether matched up against Hillary Clinton or against John McCain. Those polls are given to regular working class folks as well as the latte-sipping, Volvo-driving, iPod-listening, sweatervest-wearing elitist assholes.

  36. thebewilderness says:

    Criminy, Adamtroll,
    This is WA.
    All our regular working class folks are latte-sipping, Volvo-driving, iPod-listening, sweatervest-wearing elitist assholes. They work at Boeing, Microsoft, and Nintendo.
    It’s the Pacific Northwest, fercryin’outloud.

  37. julia says:

    I forgot that WA is a caucus and OR is mail-in. That means you have three weeks from the time you get your ballot to mail it in or drop it off.
    That makes it easier for single moms with two jobs, and other folks, to vote.

  38. Adam says:


    I was just making a joke about Lost Clown calling me an elitist snob based on some blog comments.


    It certainly will be interesting to see how the mail-in thing plays out. It is a nice, inclusive voting method IMO. It’s also great for residents who are not in the state at the time (read: college students). Of course, it is a closed primary, so it is inclusive in some ways, but extremely exclusive if you’re the sort that doesn’t like announcing their party affiliation.

  39. Violet says:

    Adam, I don’t think you’re here to discuss in good faith. You’re here to spin, just as I said the first time. Endless sophistry. Don’t have the time.

    For the record, let me recap my basic point:

    * The current pledged delegate count overstates Obama’s support because the caucus system favors him enormously.

    The Obama bias in the caucuses is such a robust trend that the burden of proof is on anyone who wants to dispute it. Obama wins states where college students get to spend hours and hours at evening meetings haranguing a few neighbors for votes. Hillary wins states where working women and other regular Democrats get to stop by the polling place on the way home from work. There are other trends, of course, but the caucus vs. primary bias is one of the key patterns of this primary season. It alone explains several otherwise inexplicable results, where Hillary wins a western or midwestern primary but loses a demographically similar neighboring state with a caucus. It is thrown into sharp relief in those states that hold both primaries and caucuses, where the results are shockingly disparate (e.g., Hillary wins the primary but Obama wins or almost wins the caucus!). If all states held primaries, the reasonable expectation is that Hillary would have won a couple of states she lost in caucus and Obama’s victory margins elsewhere would have been much slimmer.

    If one candidate had a commanding lead these irregularities wouldn’t matter, but in a close race they become of interest. Just as it never mattered in a presidential election before 2000 that Florida’s voting system is majorly fucked, but it sure as hell mattered for Al Gore.

    Still, though, we’re talking helicopters at Waterloo, because none of those caucus states are going to be re-run, obviously. But I predict reform of the caucus system will be on the agenda in the near future.

    And another reform item needs to be getting rid of open primaries. A significant portion of Obama’s support in the open primaries comes from non-Democrats, including Republican troublemakers who are deliberately gaming our nominating process. Exit data is quite clear on this, and on the fact that Hillary holds a commanding lead nationwide among self-described Democrats.

    My own father is an arch Republican who voted for Obama in our open primary (VA) purely to knock Hillary off the ticket and help Obama — whom the Republicans regard as an easy opponent — secure the nomination. He was joined by countless other Republicans on his mailing list, all going to the polls that day to cast votes for Obama. I’m not someone who is sympathetic to the idea that a Democratic nominating contest needs to be open to Republicans.

    Hillary cleans up in closed primaries because she is the choice of Democrats.

  40. Lost Clown says:

    What Violet said.

    Also adam, why don’t you go read the latest over at newsweek.

    Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

  41. Carmonn says:

    Violet, word on open primaries and caucuses.

    Adam, you are taking a hell of a lot for granted. Obama has been beatified by the press and propped by the Democratic Establishment, and with all those advatages that would have put anyone else over the top months ago, he’s having a hell of a time attracting much Democratic support apart from wealthier voters and African Americans. He doesn’t have anything like Clinton’s appeal among several key groups that we need to attract in larger numbers to win, like working class voters, latinos, single women, catholics. Unfortunately, McCain does. He’s not popular in major blue states now, just wait until more voters become aware of his scandals. IF he can keep all of Kerry’s states, he needs 18 electoral votes, and he’s not going to get them in OH or FL. That’s a hell of an if, however. He’s got a problem in NJ, in MA, in PA, and that’s just for starters. He starts off way behind the 8 ball, and since he has more skeletons than political common sense, his chances of making up that kind of deficit look more than a little questionable.

  42. Adam says:

    I’m not sure what basis you have to accuse me of not acting in good faith. I mean, do you doubt that there are sincere Obama supporters out there? If I were here to spin, why have I repeatedly pointed out that Hillary has a perfectly good general election strategy? My main point was that both candidates have ways to beat McCain, and the talk of Hillary having a clearly stronger chance only works if you willfully ignore the many borderline states where Obama polls better. You need to accept the idea that maybe I don’t hate Hillary, and maybe I believe in the things I’m saying.

    You act like I’m making these ideas up whole cloth, but I’m neither coming up with this myself, nor parroting Obama campaign talking points. There are multiple sites that try to aggregate polling results and form an unbiased guess as to how each candidate would do in the fall. When I want to know what’s going on, I look for actual, real data and make my own conclusions based on the data. For what it’s worth, I think the first of those two sites is doing a much more sophisticated and thorough analysis; YMMV.

    Anyway, on to your two broad claims. I don’t have time to address the open vs. closed primary stuff now, so I’ll stick to one topic: Caucus bias. Again, I don’t think your claim, that the caucuses are drastically biased toward Obama supporters, holds up in the face of analysis. What we see in Obama’s caucus victories are three effects.

    1) Obama polls better in the prairie, Rocky Mountain, and pacific NW regions than Hillary does. We see this exact effect in the general election polls as well, as well as the few polls that we have that compare the candidates before the caucuses happened. As fate would have it, all the caucuses except three (Maine, Texas, Nevada) were in these regions. If there had been caucuses in Pennsylvania or New York or Arkansas, Hillary would have won those.

    2) Yes, Obama’s supporters are more likely to show up to caucuses than Hillary supporters. This is indeed one of the effects. But it is VASTLY overstated. You talk about how hard it is for the working poor and single mothers to show up to caucuses. There’s a lot of truth to that, but guess what race a lot of working poor are? Guess what color skin many single mothers have? The Democratic-voting white working poor may lean 2-to-1 for Hillary, but the black working poor (saying Democratic is almost redundant) vote 5-to-1 for Obama.

    Furthermore, while college students and other activists do disproportionately show up to caucuses, older voters also show up disproportionately. Finally, many caucuses were held in the evening, when most working voters can show up. Our precinct held an evening caucus which took less time than waiting in line to vote in November 2006 did. Plenty of working professionals were there.

    Again, I am NOT claiming that these effects don’t exist, I’m just claiming that they are just a small effect compared to other factors. Most important, probably, is…

    3) Obama’s campaign placed drastically more resources into building an organization on the ground in caucus states that would drum up support and get people to show up. They made a tactical decision to go all-out in the caucus states. Hillary’s campaign, frankly, did not.

    Let me bold this line because it’s maybe the most important thing I say in this post. Hillary should have cruised to the Democratic nomination. More than any other reason, she lost because her campaign failed to game plan correctly for the caucuses.

    I am not saying that I think Hillary is the better candidate; I like Obama more, obviously (although I still do like Hillary and would support her against McCain). Nor am I saying Hillary is more electable; I think it’s extremely close and Obama probably has a tiny edge. What I am saying is that Hillary came into this with all the name recognition and the support of the party machinery, and there is no good reason that Obama’s ground game should have outclassed her in the caucus states the way it did.

    It’s easy to blame everything on college students, but the bottom line is that Obama’s campaign decided they were going to squeeze every delegate they could in the caucuses, while Wolfson and Penn and McCauliffe figured that all they had to do was show up and the nomination was theirs by Feb. 5th. They looked past the entire primary process to the fall.

    If you think it’s fundamentally unfair or undemocratic for Hillary to lose the nomination because her campaign made a bad tactical choice, then we would have to simply agree to disagree on that. Tactical choices decide campaigns.

  43. Violet says:

    Oh, I believe that you’re a True Believer. No doubt. Especially if you’re not being paid for this. But even the ones who are being paid are, I’m sure, genuinely devoted to Obama.

    You’re not arguing in good faith because you’re not really engaging the ideas open-mindedly. You’re here to spin. With each comment you’ve moved the goalposts, changed the premises, put up strawmen, and so forth.

    With your last comment you’ve now moved from arguing that caucuses accurately reflect the level of Obama’s real support (which they don’t) to arguing that Hillary doesn’t deserve to be the nominee because her campaign made a strategic error in not targeting the caucus system. Heavens. Clearly this could go on forever.

    You say that “Hillary should have cruised to the Democratic nomination.” My god, the irony. This from a supporter of Obama, the most well-funded candidate in the history of the Democratic party? Rivers of money, undreamed-of oceans of cash. A fawning media that flatters him relentlessly and just as relentlessly demonizes Hillary. The backing of the party establishment (which loathes the Clintons). A DNC that is practically re-writing the rules on a daily basis to favor him. The Chicago machine. Expensive, slick media packaging. An outrageous climate of public sexism that obviously benefits Obama.

    And with all that, the man cannot win the Democratic base. He can’t win Massachussets, or New York, or California, or Ohio, or Pennsylvania, or Florida, or New Jersey, or Texas.

    He can’t win. With all the help in the world, he can’t win.

  44. Lost Clown says:

    The Democratic-voting white working poor may lean 2-to-1 for Hillary, but the black working poor (saying Democratic is almost redundant) vote 5-to-1 for Obama.

    I’m sorry, have you been to WA? This is bar none the whiteist place I’ve ever lived. We do have a strong latino population in some parts, but they too vote for Hillary.

    If the caucus system isn’t broken how do you explain TX where she was consistently polling ahead, but got slaughtered in the caucuses? (Which, having lived in Texas has at least 10x as many latinos as blacks.) HMMMMMMMMMMM??

  45. Lost Clown says:

    And have you ever heard of swing shift? Not everyone, especially blue collar people, work 9-5. Again you are missing the point.

  46. Violet says:

    Adam, go away. It’s clear that you’ll keep posting endlessly, using every comment as a springboard into more sophistry or another attack on Hillary. Just stop.

  47. thebewilderness says:

    Just in case anyone cares, the WA party primaries are so bollixed up in this state that we have both mail ballots and caucuses.
    The will of the people has been in conflict with the will of the party and the will of the legislature for so long we have a foot on all the bases at this point.