Conservative Inquirer pundit Jonathan Last is in "Operation Chaos" mode, trying waaaaay too hard here to make Hillary Clinton the Democratic nominee, or at least prolong the nomination fight to the advantage of his presumably favored GOP candidate John McCain. He has an op-ed piece today that's currently the most widely read story on Philly.com, entitled "In most inclusive count, Clinton has the numbers." It attempts to make the case that by June 3, Clinton will have more popular votes than Barack Obama, assuming you use a formula that's not the most pro-Clinton but is still fairly pro-Clinton (not using Michigan, where Obama wasn't on the ballot, but also disregarding the caucus results from several states that Obama handily won.)
For one thing, the whole popular vote argument is a little silly, since -- and this is coming from a hardcore, lifelong political junkie -- this is a measurement that has never, ever been used before. Winning the nomination is all about getting delegates, just as winning in November is all about getting electoral votes. If I have time later, I'll be sure to dig up all the columns that Last wrote in 2000 declaring the illigitimacy of George W. Bush and annointing Al Gore our 40th president.
But even so, I would have let the matter drop until I saw the fuzzy math that Last used to give Hillary those "numbers" from the headline:
OK, it's been a while since my poly-sci major days, but a couple of things leaped out at me here. One, he notes that the last three primaries are Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota, but then never mentions Montana or South Dakota ever again. Could that be because Obama is heavily favored to win those two states, an inconvenient truth for Last's premise?
But what really got me going was his vote estimate for Puerto Rico, which assumes a turnout equal to a recent election there. Except a) not everyone in Puerto Rico is a Democrat and b) primary turnout is usually much lower than general election turnout and c) the biggest predictor of voting is habit, and if it's a first-time primary that would actually depress turnout, not increase it. So I immediately searched to see if anyone else thinks 2 million people will vote in Puerto Rico, the cornerstone of his whole premise.
It took a very short time to learn the truth: No.
Wow, so Last is probably off here by a factor of 3, or even 4 -- even the most optimistic forecast is just half of the number he pulled out of thin air, apparently.
I do agree with him about one thing, and that is that Clinton, who's popular with Latino voters, will probably win in Puerto Rico -- but not by nearly enough to erase Obama's lead in any calculation except the one that counts a large state, Michigan, which did not even have Obama on the ballot. So the entire premise for this "widely read" article is wrong, with easily available facts.
So I'm not sure is Last is being just lazy here, or intellectually dishonest.
But in this case, the Last shall be wrong.
UPDATE: This will not help Hillary with the math:
"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it," she said, dismissing calls to drop out.
That's an interesting strategy, huh?