Saturday, January 19, 2008

Barack Obama Wins Delegate Battle in Nevada, Loses Vote

With Hillary Clinton's win in Nevada this afternoon, which as we now find out, may not be a win at all, today might be a perfect example of the power of the Hillary Clinton campaign to defeat Barack Obama in the "spin game" and the power of the media to control who actually wins and who actually loses based on how they report expectations going in, and even how votes are counted and delegates are awarded.

Confused? So are those in Nevada, but let's take a closer look. All afternoon, the media, and rightfully so based on the vote totals being reported by the Nevada Democratic Party, have reported that Hillary Clinton was the big winner in Nevada. A six-point win based on the latest results with a huge margin of victory among women and Latino voters. But, as Obama senior adviser David Axelrod just said on MSNBC's coverage of tonight's caucuses and the South Carolina primary, as it turns out, due to the weighting of rural counties, of which Obama won convincingly, he actually will leave Nevada with the most delegates (A fact later confirmed, somewhat, by a post by Ben Smith over at Obama picks up 13 delegates, Clinton will pick up 12, and Obama actually increases his lead so far to, well, two delegates (not counting, of course, the super-delegates which are non-binding and not all declared at the moment). And, as Axelrod also pointed out, the Clinton campaign has been continuously saying only delegates matter. If that's the case, Obama won tonight. Is that how it will be reported tomorrow? No. Will Clinton get a bump and momentum going forward because of her "win" tonight? Absolutely. But that's just because of how the vote was characterized tonight. The bottom line, as it turns out, is that in real terms, Obama leaves Nevada in better shape, in terms of delegate count, than he started with. He essentially lost the popular vote, but won the electoral college, to steal an analogy from the general election.

Now the test is, can the Obama campaign get the media to report that story? Going in to today's caucus, the Obama campaign was far outspun by the Clintons. The Clinton campaign did a masterful job as Chris Matthews has been saying all day of playing down expectations and talking about how biased the system was against them and how Obama had an edge going into today. The truth is, while Obama did have the powerful Culinary Union, Clinton had a 20-point lead in Nevada as early as two weeks ago and had all of the major Democratic establishment support, which gave her a far greater edge organizationally. And all those casino caucus sites that the Clintons complained about and which supporters of theirs tried to sue to stop, almost all went for Clinton, as did a significant portion of the Culinary Union's own membership.

Just as in New Hampshire, the Obama campaign did a horrible job of managing expectations and they can't allow that to happen in South Carolina next week. If they allow the Clintons to paint South Carolina as "unwinnable" for them because of the support of African American voters there who will support Obama, and Hillary comes even remotely close to winning, it's a loss. He can't let the Clintons continue to dictate the storyline of this campaign. If he does, he's lost it before he ever had a chance to win it at all.

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Anonymous said...

Are you including superdelegates? The superdelegate pledge has given both Obama and Clinton the same amount of "delegate" votes.


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