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Monday, March 24, 2008
Was It Over When the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor?

See if you can spot the flaw in this argument by Josh Marshall:

I don't know where it was. It think it may have been a reader blog at TPMCafe. Wherever it was it was a post that ran down something like ten different ways of counting the popular vote, all to the end of showing that Barack's popular vote lead wasn't nearly so great and may not exist at all. There was the count with and without Michigan and Florida, with one but not the other, including caucuses and not including caucuses. There were other options that seemed to go even further down the rabbit hole. But it did lead me to have a kind of epiphany about just where the Clinton side is at this point -- gaming out different retroactive rule changes to see who would have won the popular vote if the nomination process were operating under a different set of rules. I imagine playing poker around a table with friends. Player A has a Straight Flush; Player B has four of a kind. Then B says well, sure, if you're counting straights, but if we were adding up the numbers rather than going by straights winning, I'd have won.

How well would that go over? I remember, when I was a little kid playing chess with my dad (who unlike some Dad's never saw the point of throwing games in my favor) and sometimes when I lost I'd toss out some version of ... well, but if my rook could move diagonally, then ... You get the idea.

It's pretty doggone obvious to me. On the one hand you have poker and chess where there are specific rules as to who wins. And on the other, you have the Democratic nomination where the only rule is get a majority of the delegates to support you. It is universally agreed that neither Hillary nor Obama can get the nomination via pledged delegates.

So what does Marshall suggest? Exactly what his father opposed: a new rule that had not been agreed upon before the game. In case neither party wins the majority of pledged delegates, the superdelegates agree to nominate whoever wins the popular vote. And not the popular vote including Florida and Michigan.

In fairness, he does recognize what he's doing later. It's not a rule, you see, it's just his opinion as to what the superdelegates will do:

The Clinton campaign is entitled to do whatever it wants to get superdelegates to come over to her side to even out the pledged delegate deficit. My take is that whatever the arguments, the superdelegates aren't going to go against a clear pledged delegate leader. And I think they'd be extremely ill-advised to do so. But the superdelegates do have this power under the rules. But these constant efforts to say the rules aren't fair are just silly, and truth be told I think they're more undermining of the Clinton campaign than they realize.

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