The Corner

Hillary: The Al Gore of 2008

From my new piece this morning on the very real possibility that Hillary Clinton will win the overall Democratic popular vote:

If that happens, she will be the Al Gore of the Democratic primaries: the winner of the popular vote who lost the election. But unlike Gore, who lost the 2000 presidential race because of the constitutional requirements of the Electoral College, Clinton will lose because of the Democratic party’s arcane — and changeable — rules of delegate allocation. For example, Clinton won Texas in the sense that most of us understand winning an election, but Obama ultimately walked away with more delegates, because of the party’s idiosyncratic allocation process.

In 2000, the fact that the Democratic candidate won the popular vote but lost the election caused great anger and bitterness among some Democrats. Those feelings lasted quite a while; there were a lot of “Re-Defeat Bush” stickers on cars in 2004. But in 2008, the prospect that a Democratic candidate might win the popular vote but lose the nomination does not seem as troubling. Party leaders and their allies in the press are not only not angry and bitter, they don¹t even seem unhappy that the primary season might produce a nominee who lost the popular vote.

Why the change? It¹s not clear. Certainly party elites view Obama as the fresher and more attractive candidate. But contests in which the winner of the most votes doesn¹t get the prize produce lasting after-effects, and in the months ahead, Democrats may be in for more than they know.

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