COLUMN: The Clear Choice

This story was written by Peter W. Tilton, Harvard Crimson
Barack Obama has racked up a string of primary victories since Super Tuesday last month, prompting many both within the Obama camp and across the country to all but declare him the Democratic nominee. Similarly, Hillary Clinton's lack of victories over the past four weeks have led many to characterize her campaign as losing hope -- even though her campaign issued a signed statement to the contrary. Yet even in the face of these criticisms, Clinton's recent triumphs in Texas and Ohio last week, as well as Rhode Island, have both revived her campaign and cemented her position as the best candidate for the Democratic nomination.

While Obama's 13-primary winning streak sounds quite impressive on the surface, a closer look reveals that many of these states will be insignificant come the general election. Seven of his victories, including the delegate-rich Virginia, have come in states that haven't voted for the Democratic candidate since 1964. Two more -- Alabama and South Carolina -- haven't gone blue since 1980. Thus, while Obama's victories in these states are impressive, the likelihood that he can capture any of these votes in November's general election is unlikely.

Contrast Obama's primary victories with Clinton's, and the viability of her candidacy is apparent. Of the eight most populous states, Hillary has won six and is leading in the polls in a seventh, Pennsylvania, which has yet to cast its vote. Among these is Florida, a crucial swing state which she won by nearly 20 points, scoring a huge advantage among critical Hispanic voters. While Obama's camp has claimed that Florida had been stripped of its delegates thus causing many voters to stay home, the fact remains that neither candidate campaigned in the state -- yet Hillary still won big. The suggestion by the Obama campaign that hordes of his supporters failed to go to the polls while Clinton voters flocked to vote is both irrational and disrespectful.

Hillary has also been victorious in a number of other, critical states such as Ohio, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. Additionally, she has rallied the support of important swing voting groups such as Hispanics, whereas Obama's support has come largely from traditional democratic voting blocs such as students and blacks. Though the presence of young voters and blacks has increased in this election, they cannot be counted upon in the general election, having failed to vote en masse in the past. While Obama has garnered an impressive number of victories -- albeit mostly in traditionally red states -- Clinton has continually outpaced him in both Democratic strongholds and critical swing states by garnering the support of crucial voting groups that the Democrats need to win in November.

As the Democratic National Convention in August approaches, it appears highly unlikely that either candidate will amass the number of pledged delegates needed to secure the nomination. The decision, it seems, will ultimately come down to the 796 Democratic "superdelegates," a group of elected officials and party leaders who are free to vote for whichever candidate they think is best suited for the nomination. Many are claiming that these superdelegates should vote for whichever candidate has the majority of the popular vote, but this is not a legitimate method to determine the nomination. Although Barack Obama appears to have the popular vote lead, this number is skewed since the votes in Florida and Michigan -- both of which were won by Clinton ---are being discounted. According to the National Broadcasting Corporation Election Unit, if these votes came into play, the two candidates would be essentially tied in their vote tallies, with about 47 percent of states for each candidate -- discounting the argument that Obama is the people's choice.

A recent poll by The New York Times found that 57 percent of registered votes felt that Clinton was prepared to be president, versus 39 percent for Obama. Discrepancies like this and Hillary's victories in almost all of the significant Democratic states cannot be ignored. Barack Obama has run a good, competitive campaign, but in the end the Democratic Party needs to select the candidate most likely to win come November -- not just the candidate who has managed to win Republican strongholds. The role of the superdelegates is to select that candidate, and their choice should be clear. Hillary Clinton has absorbed everything the media and the Obama campaign has thrown at her and still come out on top in nearly every battleground state. The Democrats should nominate Clinton not only because she has won these states, but also because she can win them again in the general election.
© 2008 Harvard Crimson via U-WIRE