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Should Hillary Stay in the Race?

I’m an avid runner. With the weather now in the 70s here, I’ve been running around town with my pink Hillary ’08 hat and an “I [heart] Hillary” T-shirt the past few weeks. People honk their horns as they drive by and occasionally yell, “Go Hillary!” I guess I’m a running billboard of sorts.


My husband—a Republican looking for change—voted for Sen. Hillary Clinton during last month’s Ohio primary. He defends and admires Clinton for digging in her heels and refusing to be pushed out of the Democratic presidential race. We’ve heard the media constantly volley back and forth with each discrepancy or noteworthy tidbit they uncover. If she becomes the second Clinton to occupy the Oval Office, we would benefit significantly if she demonstrates the same toughness and resolve we’re seeing in this campaign. With the race so close, I think Clinton would be foolish to hand Sen. Barack Obama a nomination he hasn’t yet legitimately earned.

Like most people, I’d be willing to bet, for the first 35 or so years of my life, I thought when the voters voted, candidates were elected based on the popular vote (I never paid attention to my political science teacher. I’m sure I used Cliffnotes!) Honestly, I just wasn’t as concerned with politics, and it wasn’t until the past few years that I got spun up on delegate-speak. Unfortunately, as hard as I try, I can’t make the math work for Clinton to capture 2,024 delegates to win the Democratic nomination before the Democratic National Committee (DNC) convention in August. But, get this, the same math applies to Obama; unless Clinton drops out, it’s doubtful he’ll have the necessary 2,024 votes either! More maybe, but certainly not enough.

It simply amazes me the number of Democratic Party leaders and Opinion Editorial writers who have pressured Clinton to drop out of the race. Nearly 15 months ago, DNC Chairman Howard Dean sent out a fundraising email explaining how important it was that every vote should count and how excited he was that we would continue with the proportionate state count and Super Delegates. Now, he should do the right thing and speak up that these pressuring tactics are undemocratic.

The Clinton team is right in saying that her pulling out would nullify the voices of voters in the remaining nine primaries. Just over two million (wow!) Pennsylvania Democrats wanted to be heard Tuesday, nearly 52% of a record four million registered voters. Clinton soundly defeated Obama with 55% of the vote, a victory that keeps her uphill nomination bid alive as the battle heads into the final six weeks of contests. Certainly voters in North Carolina, Indiana, and seven other states/territories want to weigh in, too!

The argument that nominating Clinton (via Super Delegates) would nullify the popular vote (that’s assuming she doesn't overtake Obama in the remaining primaries) is downright laughable as well as hypocritical. DNC leaders didn’t shy away from holding the voters in Michigan and Florida accountable for actions by their own state Democratic leaders trying to make their votes relevant by rescheduling their primaries closer to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. We all know in our hearts that those voters would not have turned out if they knew their votes would not be counted. What’s more, if the Democrats ran their nominating process the way we run our general elections, Clinton would have a commanding lead in the delegate count, one that would only grow more convincingly after the next round of primaries, and all questions about which of the two Democratic contenders is more electable would be moot.

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Rather than get caught up in the hype about the close race between our first viable black candidate and our first female candidate, Democrats should be reveling in the opportunity and many lessons to be learned. What’s more, the Democrats’ system of awarding delegates proportional to the popular vote is fairer and more “democratic” than the predominant winner-take-all primary rules employed by Republicans (ask Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee supporters).

Indeed, it’s because we’re using the proportionate state-by-state delegate awarding system that Obama actually has a chance. Obama's totals thus far have come from state caucuses nearly as much as from actual primaries. Clinton's victories, by contrast, have come overwhelmingly in states with primaries, not caucuses. Obama is certainly entitled to the delegates he won in the caucuses. But he can hardly, on that account, claim that he is clearly the popular favorite.

Many Democrats acknowledge that the genuine appeal of Obama and Clinton, not their party’s delegate system, is why they have a prolonged fight on their hands. Republicans had a pretty good lineup too. Their final three of Romney, McCain, and Huckabee were every bit as strong (as Republicans go) as Obama, Clinton, and John Edwards.

After the Super Tuesday primaries, even though Romney had won 11 primaries and caucuses and McCain took 13, it was the winner-takes-all delegate system that allowed McCain to oust Romney. Had the GOP doled out delegates proportionately, it's a good bet North Carolina conservatives would get their wish and be choosing between McCain and Romney May 6.

As many of the Obama supporters with whom I blog on have asserted, Clinton's continued underdog candidacy could split the party, but I contend that will happen only if she or her supporters drag the campaign into the gutter. Compared to the campaign cycles of 2000 and 2004, we’ve hardly seen any of that from either camp.


Instead of subverting her act of democracy, Democrats should embrace it. And unless something horrific is uncovered, we should show up for the vote and back whichever candidate is our nominee. Otherwise, we nullify all of this!