Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Party's Over, It's Time to Call it a Day

March 7, 2008, 7:00 a.m.

It's Over: Senator Obama Wins Nomination

Michelle Obama and friend celebrate North Carolina win. [Photo credit: Washington Post.]

"Obama won North Carolina by 56 percent to 42 percent, and his popular-vote margin there -- about 230,000 votes -- wiped out the gains Clinton had made with her decisive victory in Pennsylvania two weeks ago." Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray, "Obama Is Decisive Winner in N.C.; Clinton Ekes Out Victory in Indiana; Former First Lady Vows to Continue Despite a Widening Delegate Gap," Washington Post, May 7, 2008, p. A1.

And here are the Washington Post's numbers from Indiana, as of 6:24 a.m.:

With 99% of the vote reported, Senator Clinton had 50.89% and Senator Obama 49.11% (638,274 to 615,862, for a total of 1,254,136 votes cast).

Here's to Hillary Clinton:

The Party's Over
The party's over
It's time to call it a day
They've burst your pretty balloon
And taken the moon away
It's time to wind up the masquerade
Just make your mind up the piper must be paid

The party's over
The candles flicker and dim
You danced and dreamed through the night
It seemed to be right just being with him
Now you must wake up, all dreams must end
Take off your makeup, the party's over
It's all over, my friend
So Why Do I Say "The Party's Over"?

Why is the party over?

That's, in part, a double-edged play on words.

If Senator Clinton, with the help of right-wing Republicans, keeps up the effort to destroy Senator Obama the party that's over will be the Democratic Party. See Nicholas Johnson, "Primary Thoughts: Gingham Dogs & Calico Cats," March 6, 2008.

It's the "party" that is her party, her dream of the nomination, that "must end." It's the results from North Carolina and Indiana that have "burst your pretty balloon/And taken the moon away." "It's time to wind up the masquerade;" "Take off your makeup, the party's over."

All of which is a lead-in to, as Bill Clinton might put it, "What the meaning of 'win' is." See, e.g., Nicholas Johnson, "The Meaning of 'Win,'" February 6, 7, 9, 2008; Nicholas Johnson, "It's the Electoral College, Stupid!" April 22, 2008.

Who "won" Indiana? If Senator Obama gets 50.89% of the vote in Indiana on November 4, it would be accurate to say that he "won" and Senator McCain "lost" Indiana. Why? Because he would get all 11 of Indiana's electoral votes; the election is "winner take all." A primary is not. The prize is delegates and they are allocated proportionately. Many still refer to Senator Clinton having "won" Texas. But when all the votes were in from the primary and caucuses Senator Obama actually "won" more delegates than she did. In the most immediately preceding primary, in Guam, Obama got more popular votes and thus "won" Guam by that analysis -- but in fact they split the 4 delegates 2 and 2.

As the Washington Post reports, "At stake yesterday were 187 pledged delegates -- 115 in North Carolina and 72 in Indiana. That made yesterday the third-biggest day of the long nomination battle in terms of delegates, but more important, it was the last big day on the calendar." I don't know if the 72 Indiana delegates will end up being split 36-36, but it shouldn't vary by more than one from that -- meaning that nobody really "won" Indiana, and it's both misleading and kind of silly to say that Senator Clinton "won."

Nor did Senator Obama "win" North Carolina. What he did do was to win a good many more delegates from North Carolina than Senator Clinton. But he sure didn't get all 115.

[Again from The Post, "An additional 217 pledged delegates remain to be chosen in the final six contests between now and June 3: primaries in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota. Obama entered the day with 1,745 delegates to Clinton's 1,608, according to an Associated Press tally. Included in that count are superdelegates -- elected officials and party leaders who are automatically granted a vote at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Among those superdelegates, Clinton led Obama 270 to 255."]

The only real "win" is in November. Moreover, for those who care about who becomes the next president -- and, in that sense, which party "wins" -- it's almost irrelevant how Senators Clinton and Obama come out when they run against each other. That's not how the results are determined in the election.

For example, it makes little difference how white women. over 50, without college degrees, earning less than $50,000 divide their votes between Clinton and Obama in a primary. The question is, how will they divide their votes between Obama and McCain next November? Given that choice they may well vote their economic interests and go with Obama. Or, they may join the ranks of the "bitter" (to use the word hung around Obama's neck) and sit it out. That's the issue, the question.

The election will turn on how the Democrats' candidate runs against the Republicans' candidate. If you want to take a guess at that now there's not much to go on in polls showing match-ups between Clinton and McCain and Obama and McCain. Each, and sometimes both, win against McCain -- sometimes; they also lose sometimes.

Electoral College votes. Finally, it's not the national, popular vote split between the Democrat and Republican candidate November 4 that matters, it's the electoral vote. I've earlier made a effort at predicting those results (Clinton vs. McCain and Obama vs. McCain). See, Nicholas Johnson, "Electoral College" in "Process: Parental Leave & Project Vote Smart," May 1, 3, 2008.

Media and spin. There is, of course, another contest that goes on in parallel with the delgate hunt, and that is the game of "expectations," the ebb and flow of the chattering classes' preferences, the false charges and spin. Most immediately, the question was whether Senator Obama -- knocked off his high ground with the media focus on his absence of a flag lapel pin (notwithstanding the fact that neither McCain nor Clinton have one either), his use of the word "bitter" regarding disaffected Americans, and the words of his Pastor (from which Obama had repeatedly and forcefully distanced himself) -- could continue to function as a candidate and actually continue to gain delegates. So, delegates aside, the returns from Indiana and North Carolina were such that he "won" this contest as well.

But however you slice it, Senator Clinton's "party's over." She cannot possibly catch Obama in elected delegates (or popular votes; not that they should matter) between now and June 3. The last 100-plus super delegates to declare their preference went 10:1 for Obama -- nor is there any reason to believe that margin will change, or that he will not soon surpass her in super delegates as well.

Finish the remaining handful of primaries; but after last evening it's now long past time for the Party to begin the process of closing ranks and preparing for November.

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