Clinton’s “debatable claim”

Apparently “debatable” is a synonym for “almost certainly false” in the New York Times:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is entering the Kentucky and Oregon primaries on Tuesday with one of the most pugnacious political messages of her campaign: That she is ahead in the national popular vote when all votes are counted, including from the unsanctioned primaries in Michigan and Florida and that party leaders who have a vote as super-delegates should reflect this level of appeal.

This argument is of a piece with Mrs. Clinton’s increasingly populist image, as a fighter on behalf of average people, but it is also a debatable claim: Most tallies of the national popular vote put Mr. Obama in the lead, especially when Michigan and Florida are not counted.

No, actually, tallies of the national popular vote put Mr. Obama in the lead even when Michigan and Florida are counted. Which is pretty remarkable when you consider that Clinton got over 328,000 votes in Michigan and Obama didn’t get any, since only Clinton was on the ballot there. According to the neutral vote tallies at Real Clear Politics, the only popular vote tally under which Clinton has even a slight lead is if you include Florida and Michigan (where Obama wasn’t on the ballot) but don’t include any numbers from Iowa, Nevada, Maine and Washington (which haven’t formally released popular vote totals, although Obama won each of them except Nevada).

In other words, if you include the vote totals from an unsanctioned primary where Obama wasn’t even on the ballot, but ignore the results of four sanctioned caucuses just because those states happen not to have released popular vote tallies, then you can make a weak argument that Clinton wasn’t completely lying when she said that more people have voted for her than for Obama. But just because you can construct an absurd way of counting the popular vote which supports her argument doesn’t mean that it’s really a “debatable claim.”

And the reason this is even worth discussing is that arguments like this seem intentionally designed to undercut the legitimacy of any eventual Obama victory. It’s one thing for Clinton to argue that people in the remaining states should get a chance to vote, and that it would be silly for her to quit with only 3 weeks left — I don’t agree with those arguments, but at least they don’t seem like clear attempts to sabotage Obama’s chances in November.


One response to “Clinton’s “debatable claim”

  1. Perhaps the Times is switching from “barnyard epithet” to “debatable” as a substitute for “bullshit”.

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