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First network to call the Democratic race for Barack Obama wins a cookie

By Griffin · April 2nd, 2008 · No Comments


In attempting to find a rationale… any rationale for their candidate to remain in the race, Clinton supporters have soared to new heights of desperation, most recently resorting to this argument:

In the race for the most popular votes in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary contests, Sen. Barack Obama’s lead over Sen. Hillary Clinton is about 711,000 votes — not including Florida or Michigan — according to Real Clear Politics.

Of Sen. Obama’s 711,000 popular-vote lead, 650,000or more than 90% of the total margin — comes from Sen. Obama’s home state of Illinois, with 429,000 of that lead coming from his home base of Cook County.

That margin in Cook County represents almost 60% of Obama’s total lead nationwide.

So in other words, if you just take away all the votes from Barack Obama’s home state, his lead in the nationwide popular vote is merely substantial as opposed to insurmountable.

The problem with this argument (other than the fact that, as ridiculous as it is, it still doesn’t give Hillary Clinton the votes she needs to catch up) is that if you’re going to start arbitrarily discounting states, why not New York?  Why not Arkansas?  What would Clinton’s popular vote deficit be if you took away one of those states?

These kinds of math games were amusing back in mid-February when the Clinton campaign was trying to explain to America how she actually won Super Tuesday despite losing the popular, state, and delegate totals.  (Remember how red states didn’t count?  Also caucus states.  And states with populations under 5 million.  And states bordering either Illinois or Montana.  Also states that began with the letter ”C”, except for California.)

But now the games are getting old.  Just like the Republicans got tired of hearing how many silver and bronze medals Mitt Romney had won, Democrats are getting tired of hearing how if you just take away this and only count that, Hillary Clinton is the clear choice of just under half of Democratic voters.

The fact is that Hillary Clinton has a problem.  The problem is that she’s behind in every measurable way with literally no real-world possibility of catching up.  I’ve seen the detailed expert projections that have her closing the popular vote gap, but let me save everyone the trouble of reading or writing any more dissertation-length analyses on this subject.  Hillary Clinton is not going to win West Virginia, Kentucky, Puerto Rico or any other contest by 30% and 40% margins.  She couldn’t even win New York by 20%.  And therefore, because she’s not going to carry the remaining states with consistent 65%-35% blowouts, which is what she would need to do to catch up, the race is over.

But here’s my question: Whatever happened to the concept of using mathematics, statistics, demographics, polls, and good old-fashioned common sense to, not just predict the final outcome of a race, but to call the race?  Networks and news organizations make these types of calls constantly.

With 70% of precincts reporting… with 50% of precincts reporting… with 2% of precincts reporting, such-and-such news network projects that so-and-so will win the state of such-and-such.

And here we are at a point in the Democratic race where we have 83% of precincts reporting (44 of the 53 contests are over and counted), one candidate with a substantial lead in every meaningful category, and enough data to very reasonably call, at best, a tie in the remaining 17% of the precincts.  Even after the earth-shattering, game-changing scandal of the Reverend Wright videos, the numbers haven’t moved.

And yet the media– for the sake of ratings, a historic overabundance of caution, or fear of embarrassment– refuses to call the race.  They continue to portray every outcome as the race swinging dramatically one way or another, when in reality Iowa would have gone overwhelmingly to Obama in March and Ohio to Clinton in January.  The race doesn’t change, only which state is next and who lives in it.

Nevertheless, the media continues to push the horserace narrative and continues to sit on their hands in pointless suspense like you do when the candidate you’re pulling for is down by 20 points with more than half the vote in, thinking “If they can just win X% of the remaining vote, they’ll catch up,” with X representing some astronomically unrealistic number, given the fact that your candidate so far has lost everywhere else in the state by 20 points.

So instead of dealing in wishful thinking and finger crossing, let’s start dealing in real facts and real numbers.

I called the race back on February 20th, after Clinton’s tenth straight double-digit loss and after her campaign had clearly abandoned the delegate battle and began setting the stage for a superdelegate coup.  This was before it was known that Michigan and Florida would not hold a revote.  This was before Clinton’s “stunning” Ohio and Texas “comeback” victories would net her a combined 4 delegates.  This is before all the superdelegates who had waited until 2008 to make an endorsement (as opposed to the 100+ who endorsed Clinton last year, sight unseen) began moving en masse behind Barack Obama.

Even back then, before all that, the race was clearly over.  Now the race is hovering in some God awful dimension beyond over.  And it will stay there, mercilessly, for at least the next three weeks.  That is, unless somebody in a newsroom somewhere does the unthinkable– actually pulls out a calculator, and realizes… Oh, hey, look at this.  Two plus two equals four.  We should probably go ahead and call this thing.

Tags: Barack Obama · Democrats · Hillary Clinton · Media


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