A Whole Plate of Stupid

If you want to get an idea of how much of a farce this Democratic primary has become, one need look little further than this post at the New Republic by Naom Scheiber.

In answering the question of whether or not Obama is, “too obsessed with delegates,” Scheiber makes a semi-intelligible point in that symbolic victories could have put him in a position where this primary was done and over with already.

Unfortunately, his point is undermined by so much inanity it’s a little ridiculous. Sure, symbolic victories may count for something, or, as Hillary has proven, they could also end up being Pyrrhic at best. Indeed, it is Hillary’s campaign that is struggling at this point because of her campaign’s focus on symbolic victories versus pragmatic ones.

But, as I said, Scheiber’s assertions to explain this point are essentially built on false pretenses. Case in point:

The time Obama spent just prior to March 4 traveling to Rhode Island, where he wanted to limit Hillary’s delegate advantage, might have been better spent in Texas, where he actually had a chance of winning–and, therefore, ending the entire race. In retrospect, he probably didn’t get close enough in Texas for it to have mattered. But I’m not sure this was obvious ex ante.)

Let’s, see, what could possibly be wrong with this. Oh, right, I remember. While delegate counts in Texas won’t be official until June, Obama actually won Texas. Or at least he did if you’re using delegates as the metric, which, curiously enough, they are.

This flies in the face of another of Scheiber’s implications:

I think the reason for this obsession is that they really, really wanted to establish pledged delegates as the metric by which a nominee would be crowned. (I touch on this in my profile of Obama campaign manager David Plouffe this issue.) And if you start jumping around from metric to metric depending on which one favors you in a given moment, you quickly lose credibility with the media and superdelegates, as the Clinton campaign has discovered. On top of which, it’s not entirely clear how big the tradeoff is between pursuing delegates and popular votes, at least within a given state. I’m sure it’s not zero. But I’m not sure focusing purely on the popular vote as opposed to some combination of the popular vote and delegates in Pennsylvania would have netted Obama so many more votes overall. So I think the campaign’s hyper-focus on delegates is pretty defensible.

All well and good except, delegates are the official metric. Delegates are who select the nominee for the Democratic party, and we establish the 2025 magic finish line because that is a solid and uncontestable majority of all delegates.

Now, I’ve discussed in the past how the goal posts may appear to shift over the course of the primary. In the beginning, everyone looks at fundraising because that gives an idea of who is coming in with the most money and will have a strong foundation to attack the primaries. Then it shifts over to symbolic victories because symbolic victories allow momentum to build which can ultimately decide a race. In this elongated primary, though, we are now looking at delegate counts.


Because that’s the official metric. Fundraising and symbolic measurements are all means to the same ends; obtaining enough delegates to preclude anyone else from winning. This was the entirety of Hillary Clinton’s strategy from the beginning; ring up one huge symbolic win on Super Tuesday and become the presumptive nominee the day after.

No dice there.

Meanwhile, Team Obama recognized that delegates were the true metric, and never took their eyes off that prize. In other words, Obama’s obsession with delegates isn’t why he hasn’t knocked Hillary out yet; instead, it’s exactly why he’s in the lead.

Even with all this bluster about popular votes, we have to remember something; all the popular vote does isĀ  provide an argument to Super Delegates that could go over to Clinton’s side. It in no way mandates that they do. And as this contest continues on, and the finish line draws closer, what you are going to find is that the argument that Clinton provides to uncommitted Super Delegates is going to have to grow stronger and stronger as Obama will need far fewer Super Delegates to reach the magic number.

But I digress. Delegates, delegates, delegates, that is the name of the game, that has always been the name of the game, and Obama showed outstanding judgment in making the winning of delegates his number one priority in this race. So, perhaps Scheiber’s post should have been, “Is The Clinton Campaign Too Obsessed With Metrics That Don’t Matter?”

At least that would be much more appropriate for the times.

(h/t Oliver Willis)

(edited by DrGail)

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