Hillary Clinton’s Last Best Chance: The Popular Vote

In what’s now looking more and more bleak for the Clinton campaign in terms of the pledged delegate count from primaries and caucuses, apparantly the idea is now being floated that Hillary Clinton can take the popular vote and use it as leverage to gain the nomination. It’s a stretch.

Here’s the story from the Politico:

The apparent collapse of planned new votes in Florida and Michigan could push victory on a key symbolic measure — the primary season popular vote — beyond Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s grasp.

Clinton’s top supporters, including her husband, have suggested in recent days that amassing more votes than Sen. Barack Obama, while it has no formal meaning, could offer a key rationale for laying claim to the nomination. The theory: Winning the popular vote might give party leaders known as superdelegates a reason to take the nomination away from Obama, who is virtually sure to earn more pledged delegates.

“If Sen. Obama wins the popular vote then the choice will be easier. But if Hillary wins the popular vote but can’t quite catch up with the delegate votes, then you have to just ask yourself, ‘Which is more important, and who is more likely to win in November?’” former President Bill Clinton told ABC earlier this week.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a key Clinton ally, painted the same path to victory.

“Let’s assume that Sen. Clinton goes ahead in the popular vote count,” he said in a March 13 conference call with reporters. He then asked, “Which is more Democratic”: the measure of delegates won or of votes received.

But it’s assuming a lot to give Clinton anything but the slimmest of chances to lead in the popular vote. It’s impossible to project turnout in the 10 states and territories left to vote, but Clinton will have to close a deficit of more than 700,000 votes. That means, even with extremely high turnout estimates, she would have to win by huge, double-digit percentages in the states where she could have an edge — Pennsylvania and West Virginia — while holding Obama to tiny gains in states such as North Carolina and Oregon, where he is heavily favored.

That’s pretty weak and I can’t see it happening. Even if she does edge out Obama on the popular vote, I just cannot possibly see how Democratic voters will be in favor of giving her the nomination under those circumstances.