The most basic fact that everyone needs get through their heads is that the superdelegates are going to decide the Democratic nomination. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama will win enough pledged delegates to clinch it. The key, then, for both candidates, will be the ability to make the case that they best represent the will of the Democratic voters. Obama supporters who now obsessively point to the current pledged delegate count, insisting that Clinton cannot catch him, miss the point entirely. Obama is not going to win on pledged delegates.
Many Obama supporters have fallen back on the argument that the winner of the pledged delegate count should win the support of the superdelegates. This is but a partisan attempt to game the rationale in their favor. There are literally no objective grounds for claiming that the pledged delegate count is what matters most. Given the complicated and arbitrary system for allocating delegates, with arbitrary thresholds within precincts, and given that caucuses are wholly undemocratic, the pledged delegate count can in no way be said to represent the popular will. It is but an artificial system, and it now favors Barack Obama; but anyone who relies on that arbitrary system as determinant of the rightful nominee has to accept that the same arbitrary system also allows for the superdelegates to override it.
If one really wants to get to the core of what should matter- the will of the people- one has to return to the popular vote. But even that is a mess. As Big Tent Democrat points out:
The inclusion of Michigan is problematic as Obama was not on the ballot. Florida is problematic because campaigning was not allowed. Not including Washington state is problematic because there is no reason not to include it. 3 caucus states have not released their vote counts. Some of these problems can be resolved. Michigan and Florida should have a revote. Those caucus states can release their vote counts. The Washington state primary results can be included.
So, it again comes down to which candidate can make the strongest argument about deserving the nomination. Big Tent looked at the Real Clear Politics popular vote tally, and included Florida and Michigan, because something will now have to be done to resolve the issue of their delegates having been excluded. I have already argued that the only fair answer is to hold new primaries. But I want to look at the popular vote counts without those two states:
Her margins of victory, last night, cut his popular vote lead by nearly a third. If they roughly split the remaining smaller states, and she wins big in demographically favorable Pennsylvania, that lead will probably be roughly halved. New primaries in Florida and Michigan will then easily be able to put her over the top. As Big Tent points out, the inclusion of the current Florida and Michigan counts, alone, already put her over the top. However flawed those counts are, when you include Pennsylvania, it is clear that resolving Florida and Michigan, with new votes, can make the difference.
Beyond all that, however, there is even another important factor for the superdelegates to consider. Many had been moving to Obama because he had been racking up huge wins in a long succession of elections. She has now stopped that cold. She has also still beaten him in every contested large state. Additionally, as I pointed out last night, she won big, in both Ohio and Texas, among those who decided in the final three days. She had also already erased his lead in national tracking polls, and she has today taken a five point lead in the latest from Rasmussen. And that doesn't even take into account any bump she gets from last night. In other words, she has huge momentum. If that carries her to further victories, including in the remaining large states, she will have a clear lead in the popular vote, and the wind in her sails. Obama needs to stop her momentum.
The bottom line, then, is this: we have a deeply flawed system. I've been arguing that from day one. The best we can hope for is a nominee that best reflects the will of the people. The popular vote will not determine the winner. Neither will the pledged delegates. The superdelegates will. It will be up to them to decide which candidate best reflects the will of the people, and which candidate will best lead the party into the general election. Obama's current pledged delegate lead is irrelevant to those measures. He needs to prove that last night was an anomaly. He needs to do better in large states. The only measure that now matters is which candidate can make the best argument about best representing the Democratic Party. That argument is now wide open, and anyone's to win.