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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 04/24/2008

Is Clinton winning the 'popular vote'?

By Michael Dobbs


Philadelphia, Pa., April 23, 2008.

"The Tide is Turning. After last night's decisive victory in Pennsylvania, more people have voted for Hillary than any other candidate, including Sen. Obama."
--Clinton website, "The Fact Hub", April 23, 2008.

Hillary Clinton got a much-needed electoral boost from the voters of Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, when she trounced Barack Obama by nearly 210,000 votes, according to the official results. It was a very clear victory, but it is a big stretch for her to claim that she is ahead in the popular vote.

The Facts

In order to substantiate her claim that she is now ahead in the popular vote, Clinton has to include the results of both the Florida and Michigan primaries, which were ruled invalid by the Democratic National Committee. In the case of Michigan, Obama's name was not even on the ballot, so he won precisely zero votes.

To be fair to the Clinton camp, their website noted that their popular vote total included "certified vote totals in Florida and Michigan." The Clinton "Fact Hub" substantiated the claim by referring to vote counts by Real Clear Politics and ABC News.

As of Wednesday night, Real Clear Politics showed a Clinton lead of 122,000 votes in primary elections if Michigan and Florida are included. If caucus-goers in Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington are also included, the Clinton lead shrinks to around 12,500 votes.

What the Clinton camp did not mention, however, is that these vote counts come with major asterisks. As support for their claim, the Clintonistas trumpeted an ABC News report that "Clinton has pulled ahead of Obama in the popular vote." But the ABC report in question--a live blog item at 10:26 p.m. on Wednesday night--noted that it was a "very big if" to include Michigan and Florida. According to Jake Tapper of ABC News Political Punch, the Clintonites "misrepresented" the meaning of the ABC report.

By the more generally accepted measure of the primaries that were actually valid, Obama still has a popular vote lead of around 500,000 votes, or 1.7 percent.

Incidentally, Clinton's final margin of victory in Pennsylvania, according to official returns from the Pennsylvania Department of State, is more like 9.2 percent than the magical double-digit figure of 10 percent trumpeted by Clinton and some news organizations on Wednesday morning.

The Pinocchio Test

By any measure, double digits or not, Clinton won an impressive victory in Pennsylvania. But it is misleading for her to suggest that she has now overtaken her rival in the popular vote.

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | April 24, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  1 Pinocchio, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch  
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