February 11, 2008

Delegate Counts

Presidential primaries are not about winning votes, they're about winning delegates to the party's conventions. I still think, therefore, that Barack Obama won New Hampshire, not Hillary Clinton, because he got more delegates from that state than she did. Annoyingly, though, no one seems to have a good bead on what the exact delegate count is. While some news organizations apologize for this and others simply acknowledge it, the result is wildly differing vote counts based on who you go to for results. As of this morning, I've found these delegate counts for the race to the Democratic nomination:

Democratic Convention Watch1,1081,065
Fox News1,1361,108
Los Angeles Fish Wrapper1,1361,108
New York Times912741
Washington Post1,136

In particular, note that MSNBC has Obama leading, while the rest have Clinton ahead -- all by slim margins, except for the Gray Lady, which claims to only count committed delegates and its count shows Clinton clearly but not comfortably ahead. I don't know why the Fish Wrapper, the WaPo, and Fox News, which institutionally do not seem to like one another much, nevertheless have the same count. Perhaps they are drawing from the same reporter or using the same analyst; perhaps they have teamed up on this venture; perhaps it's just a coincidence. But given the wide variance between these information outlets, it's remarkable that they agree at all.

I've heard tell that the AP has the most accurate delegate count. But I don't know how to get at it, unless some other news outlet reprints it from the wire service. The AP website does not have any direct links to the news feed, which makes sense, since the AP is in the business of selling its news, rather than of using the news to attract eyeballs and then selling advertising.

So what's going on? Who's winning? The right answer is, "No one really knows." Not very satisfying -- but the idea that the Democrats are headed to a brokered convention in Denver, with unelected superdelegates annointing their preferred candidate after meetings in smoke-filled rooms, has got to have Democrats tied up in knots and Republicans dancing little jigs of joy. If the Democrats could get their act together and pick one of these two, they could get back to recovering the huge advantage they would otherwise be enjoying in the general election. As it is, this murky process appears to be playing right into McCain's hands. In the meantime, I don't think anyone, including most Democrats, wants to think that Donna Brazile will be the person who picks our next President. Sure, she gets a vote, but why is she so special?

It's more critical for the Democrats but the same thing is happening for the Republicans; while everyone agrees that McCain is way out in front of Huckabee the exact numbers aren't known there, either.

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