If you’ve been paying attention to David Plouffe lately — and let’s face it, who hasn’t been listening to a figure as illustrious as Plouffe? — you may have heard some sort of talk about ‘the math’ — that is: the delegate count — not adding up for Hillary Clinton; that “she can’t catch” Barack Obama and that the nomination is his because of his lead in pledged delegates. The conventional wisdom also states that the superdelegates will never overturn a pledged delegate lead held by Senator Obama, so as not to ‘distort the will of the people.’

This is preposterous on so many levels.

1) The superdelegates do not exist to rubberstamp the pledged delegates’ selection.

It defeats the purpose of the superdelegate system altogether if the superdelegates’ only purpose is to rubberstamp the choice of Democratic caucus and primary voters. The superdelegates are where they are because they are (for the most part) highly knowledgeable, politically-savvy experts. One can assume that a superdelegate to the Democratic convention is paying a little more attention to the dynamics of the race than Joe Blow in South Dakota. If a major flaw has been exposed in Barack Obama (not that I’d ever suggest that His Holiness possesses a flaw) come August, don’t be surprised to see superdelegates flocking to battle-tested Hillary.

2) Hillary Clinton won’t necessarily lose the popular vote.

According to the Associated Press, an estimated 22.5% percent of Texas’ 12 million registered voters turned out to vote. There are 4 million registered Democrats in Pennsylvania. If Hillary Clinton wins by the sixteen-point margin that the RealClearPolitics average currently has her at (which is not outside the realm of possibility) and the 22.5% figure holds up (22.5% obviously does not reflect every primary, but we’ll use it for convenience and because wild fluctuations are unlikely; if anything, the number is likely to be higher, which would only benefit Clinton), Senator Clinton would end up with a margin of victory of roughly 144,000 votes. If Florida’s votes are counted — and there is a convincing case that they can, should, and will be — then that would cut Obama’s popular vote lead down to just over 250,000 votes, which is not insurmountable, given Hillary’s ability to perform strongly in Indiana, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico; and adequately in Oregon. A Michigan re-vote could maybe — maybe — push her over the top.

This situation is a perfect storm-style scenario, but we’ve counted Clinton out more than once before only to look stupid later on.

3) The pledged delegate count is not as telling as the popular vote.

Minnesota’s delegates, proportionate to its caucus turnout, are assigned as one for every ~4,500 voters. California’s delegates are assigned as one for every ~11,500!

The caucus system is obsolete and is heavily weighted in Obama’s favor (his natural constituencies, the Clinton camp correctly points out, are far more likely to have time to take three hours out of a busy evening in order to caucus). The pledged delegate count says little in the face of such disproportionate representation. And as John Dickerson of Slate rightly points out: if the Obama team is going to claim that Obama won Texas because he came out of the race with more delegates (rules are rules, after all), then they shouldn’t turn around and say that the superdelegates need to follow the will of the voters rather than trust their own judgment.

4) Barack Obama can’t win without superdelegates, either.

For all of Plouffe and Axelrod’s huffing and puffing about his insurmountable delegate lead, Senator Obama can’t win the nomination without the assistance of superdelegates, either! It is virtually impossible for either senator to win the nomination at this point without superdelegates pushing them over the top.

By way of conclusion: all things considered, the race is, has been, and, come August, still will be a tie. The role of the superdelegates is to discern which candidate will be more likely to defeat John McCain in November. As I have already argued: all else constant, Democrats concerned with winning will opt for Senator Clinton. The conventional wisdom’s “math” simply does not rule her out in the primary season and sets her up for a highly competitive general election season.

PS: I have been posting quite a few articles lately that may give the impression that I am on a jihad against Barack Obama in favor of Hillary Clinton. Although I will make no attempts to mask my loathing of Senator Obama, I do not enthusiastically back any horse in this race. I am nominally supporting John McCain, though I plan to do very little to actively support him. I simply enjoy showing a contrarian streak and want to, more than anything, make people think twice about the conventional wisdom. Anyone wanting to know more about me should check out my MySpace page

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