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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Important States of America

The question going into the elections in Pennsylvania today isn't who'll win, but whether it'll make any difference. With most polls showing a tight race, the best either campaign can do is to try to spin what's almost certain to be a near tie. A win -- likely by Clinton -- will be nothing to write home about, percentage-wise.

For their part, the Clinton campaign have been trying to create a meme that delegates don't actually count, it's the states you win that count. Apparently, there are relevant states and irrelevant states -- relevancy seems to be measured by which states Clinton won. "The big states" that a Democrat has to win have gone to Clinton, the argument goes, so she's in the best position to win in November. This argument makes perfect sense.

Unless, of course, you refrain from lobotomizing yourself with an ice cream scoop. If you leave your brain intact, it doesn't make any damned sense at all.

Think back to the 2004 elections. There were these things called "battleground states" or "swing states." How many of these swing states were the big ones? Not many. According to the New York Times, the swing states were Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, and New Hampshire. Of those, Clinton has won Ohio, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Florida. The problem here is that Michigan and Florida don't count -- neither was a real contest. Obama has won Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The argument that Clinton won all the "important states" and therefore is entitled to run for "President of the Important States of America" dies there. If you measure "important state" more realistically, Obama won more of those states' delegates. Meanwhile, Clinton's "big states" are a mix of sure dem wins, sure dem losses, and toss ups. Winning New York, for example, doesn't mean a damned thing -- does anyone on Earth expect McCain to take that state? A Democrat may need New York to win, but a Democrat win there is also a really safe bet. No one who lives in the real world would argue that Obama would lose the Empire State.

For his part, Bill Clinton kinda-sorta made the "important state" argument recently, only to abandon it -- all at the same event.

Washington Post:

Following a rally for his wife's campaign at Market Square in Pittsburgh, former president Bill Clinton suggested his wife would already be the nominee -- if she were running under Republican party rules.

"If we were under the Republican system, which is more like the Electoral College, she'd have a 300-delegate lead here," he said. "I mean, Senator McCain is already the nominee because they chose a system to produce that result, and we don't have a nominee here, because the Democrats chose a system that prevents that result."

I think he means that if all states were "winner take all," like the GOP races, Hillary would be in the lead. I was going to check this math, but you've got Florida and Michigan throwing everything off, along with Texas's weird "pri-caucus," which gave the regular voting to Clinton and the caucus to Obama. Just going through all the possibilities would make a post that would be just as boring for you as for me, so screw it. Let's just say that it doesn't matter -- we aren't playing by Republican rules (as much as Team Hillary have been acting that way), so this is hypothetical crap with no relation to the real world.

Besides, Bill immediately said that his glorious hypothetical Hillary victory would be under a really bad system. "Disenfranchisement is not a good strategy for Democrats," he said. "We do a better job when people are in power. So I just don't agree with that." Let's see if I've got this; Hillary should be winning, except she's not, because we're using too good a system for that.

Great argument, Bill.

Of course, the Clinton campaign is running out of arguments -- good or bad. An new analysis by Bloomberg shows that Clinton's chances of getting the nomination are slim to none. And getting worse with each contest.

To overtake Barack Obama in the nationwide popular vote, Hillary Clinton needs a bigger win in tomorrow's Pennsylvania primary than she has had in any major contest so far. And that's just for starters.

After more than 40 Democratic primaries and caucuses, Obama, the Illinois senator, leads Clinton by more than 800,000 votes. Even if the New York senator wins by more than 20 percentage points tomorrow -- a landslide few experts expect -- she would still have a hard time catching him.

Clinton needs "blowout numbers," says Peter Fenn, a Democratic consultant who isn't affiliated with either campaign. "The wheels would have to come off the Obama bus, and the engine would have to blow."

Considering what's already happened with the Obama campaign, I'd say that was unlikely. You remember the kid who'd wipe out on his bike then say, "I meant to do that?"

Yeah, that's Barack Obama -- only in his case, you believe him. His skill at getting out of potentially embarrassing situations is becoming legendary. The wheels aren't going to come off that bus unless he actually kills someone.

For the record, I don't think he'll kill anyone.

Needing a big win -- and not expecting to get one -- the Clinton campaign is trying to "pre-spin" the Pennsylvania results.

Christian Science Monitor:

The latest major polls show her winning the Keystone State by an average of five points. That would not be enough to make substantial headway in either her convention delegate count or the popular vote. But Clinton campaign aides have made clear that a win is a win and that they plan to spin even a narrow victory into a major loss for Senator Obama.

"If Obama fails to win Pennsylvania, it will be another sign that he is unable to win in the large states that a candidate for president on the Democratic ticket needs to win," Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson told reporters in a conference call last week.

There it is again, the pitch for the nomination to run for the President of the Important States of America. Like that Hawaii, Wyoming, Minnesota, S. Carolina, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Mississippi, or any of the other 27 states Obama has won? You ain't worth crap -- despite the fact that you're over half of the states in the country. Apparently, there are only a handful of states that actually count. Elections are held in your states just to keep you busy or something.

The unavoidable fact of the matter is that there's a very simple theme to this primary election -- the longer it goes on, the more ridiculous and insulting Clinton's arguments get.

Remember Pennsylvania, in the unlikely (but not unrealistic) event that Barack Obama wins your election today, you'll find yourselves labeled "not important" and an argument will be made that superdelegates should pay no attention to your votes.

Suddenly, you won't be relevant enough to be worth caring about.


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