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Under Winner-Take-All, Clinton Would Lead

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Sean Wilentz at Salon points out that, if the Democrats used a winner-take-all format, Hillary Clinton would be ahead:

If the Democrats heeded the “winner takes all” democracy that prevails in American politics, and that determines the president, Clinton would be comfortably in front. In a popular-vote winner-take-all system, Clinton would now have 1,743 pledged delegates to Obama’s 1,257. If she splits the 10 remaining contests with Obama, as seems plausible, with Clinton taking Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Puerto Rico, and Obama winning North Carolina, South Dakota, Montana, Oregon and Guam, she’d pick up another 364 pledged delegates. She’d have 2,107 before a single superdelegate was wooed. You need 2,024 to be the Democratic nominee. Game over. No more blogospheric ranting about Clinton “stealing” the nomination by kidnapping superdelegates or cutting deals at a brokered convention.

While that’s mostly a sour grapes argument, I think it’s fascinating how often perceptions drive reality. John McCain is the Republican nominee primarily because he won winner-take-all states. Under the Democratic model, it’s hard to conceive of McCain ever winning a majority of delegates. But under the Republican system, he took an early lead and we all crowned him the winner.

If the Democrats conducted their nomination with fewer byzantine rules, Clinton would almost certainly be ahead. But as it is, she’s behind and regularly accused of kamikaze like behavior. This is why I am amused when Obama supporters indignantly claim his nomination is the will of the people. Not really. It’s the product of a quirky system. A different, just as democratically acceptable system would have produced as different “will” and a different nominee.

Obama has not yet won the nomination and it is not inconceivable that Clinton could come from behind. Up until now, the party’s bizarre rules have benefitted Obama. Ironically, his downfall could come because of the same convoluted system. In that case, Democrats will have no one to blame but their own party.