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The Bosnian Sniper Math of Clinton's Popular Vote Claim

Paul Rogat Loeb

Obama did the right thing by praising Clinton following the Oregon and Kentucky vote, and working to reweave the fabric of Democratic unity. And I'm delighted that Clinton said, "No matter what happens, I will work as hard as I can to elect a Democratic president this fall." But then she insisted once again, that "we are winning the popular vote." This lie undermined every word she said about coming together.

The superdelegates understand the real math, or they ought to. But given the "bitterness" of so many Clinton supporters toward reality that the woman they thought would be America's first female president will not be, the more they hear a story that suggests Obama's win is illegitimate, the more likely they are to bolt. If Clinton's voters embrace that story that "a man took it away from a woman," denied her a victory she rightly deserved, they're at risk of staying home come November, or holding back from the volunteering and the get out the vote efforts necessary for the Democrats to prevail.

Look at Clinton's math. She leads only if you give her 328,000 votes for the Soviet-style Michigan election, while giving Obama zero for not being on the ballot. And if you then ignore the caucuses of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and my own state of Washington--where a record quarter million people turned out to participate. Our votes don't count under Clinton's math. She disappears them down the memory hole of history in an argument that invents reality as much as Bush's claims of Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction or Clinton's earlier story about running the gauntlet of Bosnian sniper fire.

If the media corrected this, it would be less of a problem, but they haven't, or at least not in the same stories where they repeat her claim. The AP story in my local Seattle newspaper reported Clinton's claim without question, saying only that it included contested Florida and Michigan votes and excluded the Iowa caucuses. The otherwise excellent New York Times story included not even the slightest corrections or caveats. Neither mentioned that polls actually have Obama doing marginally better in Michigan than Clinton, nor have they explored the impact of roughly 60,000 Democratic voters who crossed over in Michigan to vote Republican, many of whom were participating in a mirror image of Rush Limbaugh's "operation chaos" campaign. Had these crossovers all voted for Uncommitted, her margin in an uncontested race would have been 48%. Clinton's argument also ignores that this isn't how the rules are set up, and that if they had been, Obama would have made time, following the Iowa victory that made voters take him seriously, to have made more than three brief visits to California and one to New York State.

Clinton's been praised of late for refraining from any truly outrageous comments, like her claim, following the Indiana and North Carolina primaries two weeks ago, that only she has the support of hard working white voters. That still reminds me of a workplace sign proclaiming "14 days since a fatal accident.". But every time she claims she has a popular majority, she's shattering whatever ceasefire exists and making it that much more likely that her supporters stay home come November. If she really wants a united party, she needs to stop, and the media and the superdelegates need to hold her accountable.

Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, and Soul of a Citizen. See To receive his articles directly email with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles

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