Does Clinton have a chance to win the popular vote? Let’s find out. But first, let’s deal with some preliminaries. Real Clear Politics (RCP) has six ways of counting the popular vote, none of which are entirely fair. But, then, the popular vote isn’t a fair measure in any case. If it were, Obama would have spent all his time in cities (where the votes are) rather than campaigning in Alaska and Idaho. RCP has the announced popular vote from every state that has provided those numbers. Obama leads by this measure by 500,000 votes. RCP also estimates that Obama won the combined contests in Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington by about 110,000 votes. So, excluding Michigan and Florida, Obama has a popular vote lead of 610,000 votes.

It’s not really fair to assume that Obama would have only received 35% of the vote in Florida if he had been permitted to campaign there, but for simplicity we’ll give Clinton her full measure of votes from the Sunshine State. That leaves her with a deficit of 316,000 popular votes. What can we do about Michigan?

Clinton received 55% of the vote in Michigan and ‘uncommitted’ received 40%. But according to the exit polls, the people, if given the option, would have voted:

    Clinton 46%
    Obama 35%
    Edwards 12%

There’s no perfect solution for counting the popular vote in Michigan, but the exit polls give us something to work with. With 594,000 votes cast, the exit polls project:

    Clinton 273,146
    Obama 207,900
    Edwards 71,280

This gives Clinton another 65,000 votes. So, based on the best available evidence and a fair determination of the rules, Obama currently has a 251,000 lead in the popular vote.

Looking forward to the upcoming contests, I have used the following methodology. To determine turnout, I have looked at other states with similar populations. For example, North Carolina and Georgia each have 15 electoral college votes, and Kentucky and South Carolina each have eight. I then used either the most recent polling averages (where available) or extrapolated from similar contests in nearby states. I split undecides evenly, giving the edge to the candidate that is favored for odd numbered splits.

So, here goes (I’ll leave Guam and Puerto Rico for last).

North Carolina

Expected vote: 1,035,000
Pollster Avg.: Obama 55% Clinton 36%
Projected to: Obama 60% Clinton 40%
Popular Vote: Obama 621,000, Clinton 414,000
Net Advantage: Obama +207,000
Overall: Obama +458,000


Expected vote: 930,000
Pollster Avg.: Obama 43% Clinton 49%
Projected to: Obama 47% Clinton 53%
Popular Vote: Obama 437,100, Clinton 492,900
Net Advantage: Clinton +55,800
Overall: Obama +402,200

West Virginia

Expected vote: 250,000
Pollster Avg.: Obama 25% Clinton 46%
Projected to: Obama 39% Clinton 61%
Popular Vote: Obama 97,500 Clinton 152,500
Net Advantage: Clinton +55,000
Overall: Obama +347,200


Expected vote: 540,000
Pollster Avg.: Obama 28% Clinton 60%
Projected to: Obama 34% Clinton 66%
Popular Vote: Obama 183,600, Clinton 356,400
Net Advantage: Clinton +172,800
Overall: Obama +174,400


Expected vote: 350,000
Survery USA: Obama 52% Clinton 42%
Projected to: Obama 55% Clinton 45%
Popular Vote: Obama 192,500, Clinton 157,500
Net Advantage: Obama +35,000
Overall: Obama +209,400

South Dakota

Expected vote: 25,000
Pollster Avg.: Obama 46% Clinton 34%
Projected to: Obama 57% Clinton 43%
Popular Vote: Obama 14,250, Clinton 10,750
Net Advantage: Obama +3,500
Overall: Obama +212,900


Expected vote: 30,000
Pollster Avg.: no polls
Projected to: (based on Wyoming/Idaho) Obama 66% Clinton 34%
Popular Vote: Obama 19,800, Clinton 10,200
Net Advantage: Obama +9,700
Overall: Obama +222,600

So, based on reasonable projections of turnout and outcomes, Obama looks to end this contest with a lead of approximately 225,000 popular votes, excluding Guam and Puerto Rico.

I don’t think Guam has enough votes to matter (I understand it is a caucus). So let’s focus on Puerto Rico. I have no data to estimate turnout, but I do have a poll.

Puerto Rico

Expected vote: Unknown
Pollster Avg.: Obama 42% Clinton 50%
Projected to: Obama 46% Clinton 54%

If a million people vote, Clinton will get 120,000 net votes (540,000-460,000) out of Puerto Rico. To win the popular vote she would need 2 million people to vote and that would give her a victory of approximately 15,000 votes.

The total population of Puerto Rico is approximately 4 million. And that includes children and felons and people that align with the Republican Party. It seems out of the realm of possibility that 2 million people will vote in the Democratic primary.

But, based on this analysis, that’s what Clinton would need to even pull even in the popular vote.

So…no…Hillary Clinton cannot win the popular vote even by winning Indiana, and West Virginia and Kentucky in blowouts. She would have to do all that and significantly outperform in Oregon and North Carolina, and win very big in a very high turnout Puerto Rico primary, to even have a chance at tying the popular vote. It’s over.

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