If Michigan Had Voted

The Clinton camp is fighting to receive virtually all the delegates from Michigan, including both those “won” by Clinton as well as the bulk of the uncommitted delegates. Of course this will never happen as most in the party see this as absurd. Obama’s position of splitting the delegates seems much more fair, and actually might be doing Clinton a favor as compared to if they had an actual primary.

Initially I had assumed that if both Clinton and Obama were on the ballot but neither campaigned as agreed then Clinton would have won due to greater name recognition. Obama would lack the advantages he has in states after campaigning, as well as the advantages of a better organization. After seeing that Clinton only received 55% of the vote despite not having any major opponents on the ballot I am no longer so certain that she would have won if Obama’s name was listed.

A situation where the names on the ballot but nobody campaigns is still not a fair assessment of Obama’s strength. I’ve assumed that he probably would have won by around 4%, as some polls showed him leading after he was receiving more national attention. Clinton would have done well with the blue collar vote, preventing a big win for Obama. Obama would beat Clinton among the black voters, the more affluent suburbs such as in Oakland County, and in college towns such as Ann Arbor. Portions of western and northern Michigan would vote more like Wisconsin and Illinois keeping the race close.

This is all rather hypothetical. I find via Andrew Sullivan that FiveThirtyEight.com has worked out a model to attempt to predict the Michigan vote. Their results are in the same ballpark as I had been guessing without as detailed an analysis:

Overall, we project that Obama would have carried Michigan by a narrow margin — about 4.0 percentage points or 80,000 votes. After accounting for delegates awarded at the statewide level, we project him to win 65 Michigan delegates to Clinton’s 63.

Taking this into consideration shows that Obama is being more than fair in splitting the delegates in half, especially as he was the one who followed the rules and should not be penalized. There is certainly no justification for the Clinton campaign’s argument that he does not deserve any delegates.


  1. 1
    Julia says:

    As splitting the delegates won’t help anyone it makes more sense to keep them out of the game unless it is just to help the Michigan voter feel involved which is a goal by itself.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    That’s the idea–to keep Michigan and Florida voters from feeling totally left out of the process. As there was not a meaningful vote in either state the delegations should be split in half so that the states do not have an impact on who wins the nomination.

    The other question is the superdelegates in each state. I wonder how many of the superdelegates from each state are party insiders who are responsible for the mess caused by moving up the primary dates. If many of the superdelegates were involved in this, I could see this as a strong argument to not seat the superdelegates from Michigan and Florida.

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