The "New Math"–for girls!



Hillary Clinton won the Kentucky primary yesterday by a whopping 35%.  (That’s right:  with Clinton’s 65 percent to 30 percent, Barack Obama’s percentage of the vote is lower than the gap by which he lost.)  Obama won Oregon by an impressive 16%.  Clinton won more votes and more delegates last night, and yet the headline in the print edition of the Denver Post this morning reads “Obama Edges Closer.”  (The linked on-line edition headline is similar:  “Obama edges closer to nomination.”)  WWTSBQ?

On page 6A, the Post runs an AP story reporting on the three presidential candidates’ fundraising in April:  Obama raised $31 million, Clinton raised $22 million, and McCain raised $18 million.  The headline for the story?  “McCain’s fundraising jumps; Obama still on a roll” (no link available at the Post’s website, but the AP story can be found here.)  Clinton’s surprisingly strong fundraising is disappeared by the headline, although the third paragraph of the story itself reads, “[t]he former first lady raised about $22 million, aided by a stunning $10 million haul raised in the two days following her April 22 primary victory in Pennsylvania. It was her second best fundraising month of the campaign.”  Speaking of money, how about this totally coincidental error in the LA Times today?  (Oops–it’s that darn math for girls again, which means that Clinton’s campaign debt is doubled, but her fundraising ignored!  WWTSBQ?!?)

Clinton has won seven out of thirteen nominating contests in the past two and a half months (Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky), all but one in medium to large states, all but two by impressive (9% or higher) margins, and a few in total blowouts (35% or higher).  Since becoming the frontrunner and more recently the “presumptive nominee,” Obama has won only six contests since February (Vermont, Mississippi, Wyoming, Guam, North Carolina, and Oregon–3 small states/territories, and 3 medium states).  Meanwhile, SUSA has a poll now that suggests (surprisingly) that Obama would lose North Carolina in November to McCain by 8 points, but Clinton would beat McCain by sixWWTSBQ?

nast-donkey.jpgI guess all of those Obama supporters who panicked in early March were right to demand that Clinton drop out then after all, because she sure has been an a$$-kicking little-donkey-that-could this spring.  (Too bad she didn’t kick it up a notch a month earlier!)  It sure would have been nice for Obama if Clinton had forfeited and let them call the game for him at halftime.  If Obama is indeed the party’s nominee, I hope his losing streak ends in November. 

(No Hillary-hating and nothing O/T in the comments, please!  The subject of this post is the media’s strange inability to permit Clinton’s winning spring to interrupt or revise the preferred narrative, which is that Obama is the winner no matter how often or big he loses, and Clinton is the loser no matter how often or big she wins.  The subject is not what a vile, disgusting, child-eating, warmongering, calculating, unscrupulous, vicious, shrewish, knee-capping, kitchen-sink throwing, ambitious, monstrous f*ck*ng whore you think Clinton is, m’kay?  So you can just keep that garbage a-festerin’ over on your own blogs.)

UPDATE, 5/22/08:  Well, sometimes hacks tell the truth.  Go read Bob Somerby’s analysis of John Judis‘s Clinton “autopsy” (h/t to Correntewire and to Chet Scoville at Shakesville.  Judis actually wrote these sentences: 

Clinton’s second great political mistake lay in how she dealt with Obama’s challenge. Sometime in December, having realized that Obama was going to be a genuine rival for the nomination, she and her campaign decided to go negative on him. They did the usual thing politicians do to each other: They ran attack ads taking his words somewhat out of context (Obama calling Reagan a “transformative politician”); they somewhat distorted old votes (voting “present” in Illinois on abortion bills); and they questioned old associations (Obama’s connection with real estate developer Tony Rezko).

John McCain and Mitt Romney were doing similar things to each other—and Obama did some of it to Clinton, too. But there a was difference between her doing this to Obama and McCain’s doing it to Romney—a difference that eluded Clinton, her husband, and her campaign staff.

*          *          *          *          *

Obama, too, was, and is, history—the first viable African-American presidential candidate. Yes, Hillary Clinton was the first viable female candidate, but it is still different. Race is the deepest and oldest and most bitter conflict in American history—the cause of our great Civil War and of the upheavals of the 1950s and ’60s. And if some voters didn’t appreciate the potential breakthrough that Obama’s candidacy represented, many in the Democratic primaries and caucuses did—and so did the members of the media and Obama’s fellow politicians. And as Clinton began treating Obama as just another politician, they recoiled and threw their support to him.

Now we know that at least according to Judis, 1) the media decided early on that Obama should be the winner because his campaign was “historical,” hers not so much, and 2) they punished Clinton specifically for, you know, running a political campaign.  She didn’t understand the special rules in play only for Obama!  And so the media decided to beat the bitch, when Obama looked like he might not be able to pull it off himself.  Thanks for explaining it all to us so clearly!

I’ll comment more later on the strikingly absolute hierarchy of race over gender in the “oppression Olympics” Judis plays here.  Let’s just note that at least half of all of the people who were enslaved and who suffered under Jim Crow and marched for Civil Rights were female.   

23 thoughts on “The "New Math"–for girls!

  1. Same with the _New York Times_, which endorsed her when it presumably seemed like the obvious New York thing to do, but subsequently all but turned its Op-Ed operation over to the other side and increasingly hammered her for actually trying to win. On the money question, it should be said somewhere that massive imbalances of economic resources available for one side or another for campaigns is a bad thing for the process no matter what their source, or the reasons for their emergence. The Obama claim to have created a “parallel public financing system” via Internet donations is shabby spin. Even if his totals represented a thin dime hand-carried in by every schoolkid in the country, the distortion in the public debates caused by massive differences in “media buys” week after week is corrosive of the public good. The notion that money somehow becomes inherently “clean” or “dirty” based on its previous chain of custody contains a considerable amount of fallacy. (Although it was amusing last night listening to her campaign reps on CNN reciting the media differentials they had faced in various states–2/1, 3/1, 4/1–that they subsequently won by convincing margins.


  2. (I am not a supporter of Clinton, but…) I keep noticing the headline “Obama Turns Campaign toward McCain” over and over, week after week. This seems to have been the headline since March. How long does it take to make this “turn?” Why is this “turn” perpetually new? Perhaps because he can’t seem to put the nomination to rest.


  3. I don’t really understand your complaints about the headlines after Oregon and Kentucky.

    According to CNN, Obama currently needs 62 more delegates to win, and Clinton needs 249. On Tuesday, Clinton won 58 delegates, and Obama won 45. So before the vote Tuesday, Clinton needed to win 74% of the remaining delegates to get the nomination, and now she needs 80% of them. So even though Clinton beat Obama Tuesday, she didn’t win by enough. If the rest of the delegates break in the same ratio as on Tuesday Obama will finish with 109 more delegates than he needs.

    If Florida and Michigan are seated without sanctions, which is admittedly unlikely at this point, then Clinton needed 58.1% of the remaining delegates before Tuesday and 58.5% after. So in that scenario the position is basically unchanged, with a tiny advantage to Obama. (Those calculations are based on numbers from, because I couldn’t find how Clinton wanted the Fl and Mi delegates seated on CNN.)


  4. But the purpose of serious political journalism is not mainly about keeping your scorecard for you. Imagine if the _Times_ (o.k., let’s say the Denver _Post_) led off its Sports page every day for six months a year with a banner about how many games the, let’s say Rockies, were out of first place (currently 10-1/2). That’s what the tables and the box scores are for. The fairest complaint against the mainstream media is not that most of it hates Hillary, or is “rooting” for Obama, but that so many of its practitioners became so fiercely attached to one dramatic “story arc” (or “narrative” to use the vocabulary of this post) that it almost can’t bear to let go now.

    The story I’m seeing lately is about a guy who two months ago didn’t just have a supposedly “insurmountable lead” in “pledged delegates,” but who was poised to transform or even transcend politics as we know them. But now he’s staggering toward the finish line, getting hammered in contests week after week. Sports analogies and rhetoric are weak at best for political analysis, but this thread is really about journalism. I don’t know from the Denver _Post_, but in New York, even first place managers get fired in circumstances like this. The guy had a great run through the Cactus League in February, but I really don’t know now… When the media clings to a story line, down to the level of almost boilerplate paragraphs coming out of one camp, it really becomes part of the story. Vladimir Putin should get such reverential press treatment for his “party rules” as Howard Dean has this spring.


  5. Everybody except for the Clinton campaign (and probably even them) knows its over. Even most of her voters knows its over. Yes, she still has her supporters, and Obama still has a problem with poor whites in Appalachia. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s going to be the nominee. He didn’t campaign in WV and KY because he had more important work to do in swing states for the fall, and he knows he cannot put either KY and WV into play.

    But, if Clinton were still in this, she would be picking up superdelegates. Instead, she’s falling further and further behind Obama in that most important metric every single day.

    In other words, the media’s storylines simply reflect what everyone knows: that McCain and Obama are going to be the respective nominees, and that this where the storyline is now shifting.

    If you disagree with any of the above, please, tell me why I am wrong. Where is Clinton going to get the delegates to win the nomination? The supers? Why are they suddenly going to reverse course and all back her candidacy?

    BTW, calling the February states “the cactus league” is cute but misleading. A majority of the pledged delegates were determined in February. It would be like not counting the third through the seventh innings of a baseball game.

    As for what has happened since, Obama has won in every state one would have expected him to win, and Clinton has won in every state one would have expected her to win. Historiann was ready to concede this fight was over after 5/6, but now I guess she’s changing her tune because of West Virginia and Kentucky, where Obama never really broke 30 percent in the polls. I wonder why he couldn’t do better there? I wonder, I wonder…


  6. I’m thinking along the same lines as David-where in the world are the superdelegates? All we’ve heard about over the last few months is that the “supers” are going to decide this thing, but today;s turnout was pathetic. I can understand why no one is rushing to Obama’s side at the moment, but where are the HRC supporters? If they were waiting in the wings for her to give them something tangible to point to, then last night should have done it. If a 30 point win (after a 40 point win) wasn’t enough, I’m not sure what those people are waiting for.

    Supporters of both have been extremely vocal and impassioned. I think its time for the politicos to match their passion and stand up for who they believe in.

    And I’m not saying this because I want anyone to quit, or because I don’t think an extended primary is bad for the Dems. I’m just very impatient. I’m the type of person who picks up a mystery novel and flips almost immediately to the last page to see how it ends. And this primary is killing me. Enough suspense already! Let’s have us a candidate! Either will do for me at this point.


  7. I think the supers are content to let the primaries finish, which also makes sense to me. Read Pelosi’s comments today: I bet when she endorses Obama, which she will after all the primaries are over, a flood will come in for Obama. Until then, there will be a few here and there, but it’s better to let the last couple states have their moment. This will all be over by the second week of June at the latest. By then there will be a deal for Michigan and Florida to be seated, and the remaining supers will swing disproportionately to Obama, and Clinton will suspend her campaign.

    In the meantime, Clinton will push the popular vote argument, and she might get a big boost from Puerto Rico on June 1. But I don’t think anyone is going for that argument, certainly not the party leaders. Then South Dakota and Montana on the 3rd, and then soon after that “the long, flat, seemingly endless Bataan Death March to the White House” (as the Daily Show likes to say) will come to an end.


  8. As for Kentucky and West Virginia, I don’t think anyone cares. They know a lot of those voters aren’t going to support a black candidate. Hell, even Robert Byrd came out for Obama on Monday. If Clinton wanted to convince some superdelegates, or at least give them pause, she needed to win Oregon.

    I would lay down money that 99 percent of the superdelegates have already made up their minds. They are just trying to determine what is in their own self interests in terms of the timing of their endorsement.


  9. Democrats–and others–who know a little bit about American history (and the electoral college for that matter) would never say “I don’t think anyone cares” about West Virginia or Kentucky. Let’s not get into this game that the voters in some states count and voters in other states don’t. It’s elitist, anti-American, and anti-democratic.

    Winning politicians don’t blame the voters when they don’t vote for hir. Winning politicans figure out a way to reach those voters and win their support.


  10. Well, being called anti-American is the nicest thing you’ve ever said about me.

    Huge chunks of the Democratic electorate in both KY and WV said that race was a major factor in their vote. These people voted for Hillary. How should Obama convince people in these states to support a black candidate? A lot of them still think he’s a Muslim and don’t like him because of his middle name. Appalachia has always been a place with a major race problem. I don’t think Obama is going to be able to undo that kind of bigotry in the span of a few months. Given the limited amount of time one has to campaign, he’s much better off focusing his efforts on states he is more likely to win, such as Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. (Also New Mexico.) That’s why his current strategy of taking his big losses in those two states in order to campaign for the general is the right one, in my opinion.


  11. As an Obama supporter, I have to say, I was a bit perplexed by his decision to not campaign (in person) in West Virginia or Kentucky. Even if he truly believed that race would prevent him from winning either state, or that they wouldn’t be in play in the General election, its antithetical to his message about inclusion. Remember the “no red states or blue states” at the last convention?

    I agree with Historiann that all states count, and all votes matter. And I’m disturbed by their decision to write off certain states, no matter what the reason. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to penetrate certain groups, but I think there were probably some voters who wanted to be courted by more than t.v. ads. After all, that’s a big reason why my state (Colorado) went for Obama. He was here last winter, and Hillary couldn’t be bothered.

    It bothers me when the Clinton campaign dismisses my vote because it happened in a caucus (and I am one of those college-educated, latte drinking, arugula eating people, though I’m not sure what arugula is), but it should rightfully bother the people of WV and KY that their vote was equally ignored.


  12. The reason Obama did not campaign in West Virginia is that, after Indiana and North Carolina, he realized he had the nomination locked up. He decided he would be better spent trying to campaign in Michigan (where he’d never campaigned before, but a state that will be huge in the fall), Florida, Ohio, and Iowa, among others. You can quibble with the strategy if you want, and one could make an argument that he should have fought in West Virginia and Kentucky, but the reality is that once you feel you are the presumptive nominee, your goal shifts to November. I suspect that Obama will try to improve his image in Appalachia over the course of the summer, but he felt there were more important places to be right now. As someone who wants the Democrats to win in November, Michigan and Ohio are much more important than West Virginia and Kentucky. Not only are they more winnable, but they have more electoral votes, and with the winner-take-all system, Obama can’t afford to waste too many resources on states he doesn’t need to win and is extremely unlikely to win.

    (Let’s also keep in mind that Hillary didn’t do much campaigning in Oregon, either. I think Obama did one stop in Kentucky.)

    Also, as for feeling that your vote doesn’t matter: I came to grips with the fact that my vote doesn’t matter a long time ago.


  13. “Hillary didn’t do much campaigning in Oregon, either.”

    Wrong. Clinton was in Oregon several times from early April up until the primary, as even this lazy search in the Portland Tribune reveals. (Just scanning the headlines, I count 9 visits between April 3 and May 16.) Bill Clinton made appearances as early as late March, and campaigned there regularly in April and May. Chelsea too.

    Please do a little research to back up your claims. It looks to me like she campaigned extemely hard in a state where the odds were stacked against her. That is how she narrowed the gap in the polls. That is what leaders do–they go places where people aren’t sold on them already, and they make their case. They don’t just write off states where it looks like they won’t win.


  14. ej: it’s unfair to say that Hillary “couldn’t be bothered” to campaign in Colorado. Obama visited Colorado only once before the Feb. 5 caucus. Clinton visited in late October, but unfortunately for her, coverage of that visit was swamped by the Rockies’ surprise appearance in the World Series last year. Undoubtedly Obama’s appearance here helped his case, but it’s not like either of them tore up the state campaigning.

    In fairness to both of them, the Colorado caucus was Super Tuesday, when they had not just one or two primaries/caucuses, but there were TWENTY THREE other contests that day. I think that’s probably the reason none of the presidential candidates spent much time here.


  15. I should clarify my “Cactus League” cheapshot–which it was–to say that I wasn’t referring to Super Tuesday, just to the 11-contest run that followed it, and then also retract it, because it wasn’t really a set of practice or exhibition contests, as implied in that metaphor. But it was, in fact, the early season. If you think the party should treat the primary season as an audition or tryout for the general election, rather than a part of some sacred compact in which the playing field has to be level everywhere–which clearly it wasn’t anyway–you’d have to be worried about going into November with a “winner” who pretty much seems to be “backing into,” the title.

    And what are we to make of Nebraska? In its February 9 caucus, 38,670 people took part and Obama got almost 67% of the votes and ended up with two-thirds of the 24 delegates. Three months later, in Nebraska’s actual primary, with no delegates at stake but turnout plumped up by some apparently attractive statewide contests, 93,000 people voted, and Obama won this time by only 49% to 47%. This could either be a laboratory test of the structural inequality of the caucus system, or a measure of frontrunner “fade” as grinding season wore on. Or both.


  16. Historiann, please do a little research. Clinton did not “narrow the gap in the polls” in Oregon. What I was referring to was the fact that she canceled events in Oregon in the last few days before the primary, but whatever.

    Anyway, Obama won Oregon by 18 points. A January poll had her up by 8 points. From there, every poll from April 4 to May 11 had Obama leading, but none by more than 14 points. In the last week before the polls, the average was Obama by 12 points.

    Again, do some research. Thanks.


  17. You are cherrypicking the one outlier poll. All the others had the gap narrower than 18 points. One showed Obama up by only four.

    I certainly don’t think it was a mistake for Clinton to campaign in Oregon! She should have campaigned much harder in Oregon, because she needed to win Oregon if she was going to have any chance at the nomination. The opposite was not true for Obama. He did not need to campaign in Kentucky in order to maintain his position as frontrunner. He needed to match expectations in Oregon, which he did. My point has simply been that, at this point, his resources are best spent in other states rather than trying to narrow the margin of his defeat in Kentucky.

    I suspect at this point Clinton is trying to strengthen her position to the point where Obama will have to put her on the ticket as VP. That’s what Bill is apparently arguing for. That’s what the popular vote argument is about. Unlike a lot of Obama supporters, I’m not opposed to this outcome. It could backfire, but it is worth considering.


  18. According to this report (straight from the unsourced, non peer-reviewed internets, so take it for what it’s worth) Clinton has asked to be Obama’s VP and he has said no.

    I’ve been very doubtful all along that Obama would even consider picking Clinton. His whole campaign was built on trashing the Clintons and suggesting that they are part of the “old politics” that his “Change” (TM) will obliterate. While some presidential candidates turn about pretty quickly and choose a VP as a marriage of convenience for both (Reagan/Bush for example), I seriously doubt that will happen. It would please the majority of Democrats, but I think Obama is intimidated by both Clintons. (I also can see why he wouldn’t want a popular former president hanging around his administration.)


  19. Yeah, I just read that too. I had earlier read that Michelle Obama had been urging her husband not to accept Hillary as VP also. Who knows if these things are really happening or not, though.

    I look forward to reading a post on the “Oppression Olympics.”

    By the way, though, I disagree with that author. I don’t think Clinton was hurt by going negative on Obama. Rather, it seems to me that she didn’t go negative soon enough. She did well in New Hampshire after going after him (and Edwards) at the NH debate. The “kitchen sink” strategy or whatever we want to call it seemed to work for her in Texas and Ohio. If she had pulled this out earlier it would have helped her. Rather, it seems to me that she made the mistake of overlooking Obama and following the Penn strategy of expecting to wrap things up in early February.

    Anyway, the race continues. Now we will all be treated to the absurd spectacle of watching two politicians briefly pander to a colonized island that few in the U.S.–and probably fewer in either of these campaigns–actually care about. It should be fun.


  20. Pingback: Teh Ruelz : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  21. Pingback: Stop telling Notorious R.B.G. to step away from the bench. | Historiann

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