Thursday, April 24, 2008

Michigan and Hillary Clinton's Popular Vote Claim

There has been much discussion since the Pennsylvania primary of the Clinton campaign's claim that she is now ahead in the popular vote. Of course, this only happens when you figure in Michigan and Florida into the count, and only when you do it in a very specific way.

According to MSNBC, the popular vote with every state included except Michigan (i.e. every state where Obama was at least on the ballot) breaks down like this:

Obama: 15,016,607
Clinton: 14,822,400

If you include all of Clinton's Michigan vote and nothing in Michigan for Obama (who was not on the ballot there), then you get a Clinton lead (this is the metric being promoted by the Clinton campaign):

Clinton: 15,150,551
Obama: 15,016,607

Of course, most people are looking at this metric with a great deal of skepticism. Of the 593,837 Democrats who turned out to vote in the Michigan primary, 55% (328,151) cast their vote for Clinton. But what would have happened if all the candidates' names had been on the ballot? Fortunately, we have exit polls from Michigan which can give us some insight here. On the exit poll survey, voters were asked who they would have voted for had every candidate's name actually been on the ballot. Here are the results:

Clinton: 46%
Obama: 35%
Edwards: 12%

So, what happens if re-allocate the Michigan vote accordingly? In Michigan, the vote would have broken down as follows:

Clinton: 273,165 votes
Obama: 207,843 votes
Edwards: 71,260 votes

Thus, had Obama's name been on the ballot, Clinton's margin in the state would have been much smaller. Of course, there is no really good metric for measuring the vote in Michigan. Even in this scenario we have to assume that turnout wasn't suppressed by the fact that Obama's name wasn't on the ballot. Yet, you can imagine that many Obama supporters (and some Clinton supporters) may not have bothered to turn out to vote given that they knew that their votes were not likely to count. Nevertheless, this metric probably comes closest to capturing the actual preferences of those who did turn out to vote in Michigan.

So, how big a difference does this make in calculating the popular vote nationwide? If you add in the Michigan vote using the reallocation based on the exit polls, then you get the following national count:

Obama: 15,224,450 votes
Clinton: 15,095,565 votes

That would give Obama a lead of more than 120,000 votes nationwide, a lead that would be difficult for Clinton to overcome in the remaining states.


Anonymous said...

Obama WAS on Michigan's ballot - until he flipped us off and took his name off the ballot!

It's an insult to reallocate our votes. Dem. Chair, Mark Brewer told us to vote 'uncommitted' if our candidate did this.

Why should Obama get more delegates than 'uncommitted' would have given him? Some of those were for Edwards, etc.

Either seat them the way we voted or don't seat them at all - but do not pretend we count when the party is making up numbers.

I'm tired of you guys just using us, and if you don't use the real senario it would be worse than FL 00 & I will look for a party who cares about and respects the voter!

Sick of the anger said...

Regarding Anonymous's comments:

I'm an Obama supporter, but I was disappointed they took those four delegates away from Hillary.

I agree with the suggestion that, if it had been a real primary with everyone's name on the ballot, it probably would have been close to the exit polls suggested. And I also agree that it was not a real primary.

But at this point, Obama's people should have taken the high road, gotten away from the subjectivity, and let Hillary have her 4 delegates, no matter how unfair that would be to Obama supporters. Even if Hillary supporters can't get comfortable with the idea that Democrats should be a united party, the reason Obama is our nominee is because more Dems want the party to be united and to look forward.

These four meaningless delegates are going to be a bone of contention for years, which is stupid if only because the 4 won't matter one iota at the end of the day -- Obama's going to win by a lot more than 8 delegates. And I also wholeheartedly agree that it's a bad precedent to set in any case, Ickes had a good point in that respect.

However, while I agree with you on these 4 delegates, Anonymous, note that what the analysis in this column was really doing was pointing out how fallacious the Clinton argument is that they're winning the popular vote. It had nothing to do with delegates.