What Would Make a Clinton Popular Vote Lead Legitimate?

Clinton could lead the popular vote in four of the six metrics, but the Democrats seem set on Obama.

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Hillary Clinton's 249,000-popular-vote plurality in Kentucky, offset only partially by Barack Obama's 108,000-vote plurality in Oregon, gives her a popular-vote lead in two of realclearpolitics.com's six metrics, i.e., counting Florida and Michigan, and including those two states and the imputed popular-vote margin in the Iowa, Nevada, Washington, and Maine caucuses. And it puts her within reach, depending on the result in unpredictable Puerto Rico, of a popular-vote lead in two more metrics—the two that don't include Michigan, where Obama removed himself from the ballot and Clinton didn't. All of which seems to me to make a solid case that Clinton is the choice of the people.

Yes, there's also a solid argument that Obama is ahead in the metric that, after all, determines the nomination—the delegate count. But that lead consists almost entirely of delegates won in caucuses. Obama has a pencil-thin lead among delegates chosen in primaries.

Yet there seems to be no doubt that most Democrats—importantly, most superdelegates, regard Obama as the only legitimate choice, and just about no one I know thinks he won't be nominated. Only strong Clinton partisans disagree. I think this is odd, given that the process arguments are pretty evenly balanced. But then one of my rules of life is: All process arguments are insincere, including this one. Democrats, I think, are making the calculation that black voters will deeply resent what they would see as the rejection of a black candidate who has won more delegates in caucuses and (by just a little bit) in primaries. The political argument trumps the process argument, here as it usually does.

I've calculated the Obama and Clinton percentages in all of America's million-plus metro areas, as defined in this article. Here I've presented them ranked by black percentage of population in 2000. Obama does very well in metro areas with the largest black percentages, unsurprisingly, and in some metro areas with very low black percentages. He does relatively poorly in metro areas where central-city politics has polarized voters on racial lines. There's more analysis to be done here, which I may tackle over the weekend.

Million-plus metro areas ranked by black share:

  Black % Obama % Clinton %
New Orleans 48.3 63 33
Memphis 41.3 65 33
Norfolk, Va. 30.4 71 29
Richmond, Va. 28.0 72 27
Baltimore 26.9 59 37
Birmingham, Ala. 26.4 63 35
Washington 23.7 65 34
Atlanta 23.5 71 28
Detroit 23.4 * 54
Cleveland 20.4 49 50
Philadelphia 20.2 54 45
Jacksonville, Fla. 19.1 44 36
New York 18.9 43 55
Miami 18.8 33 56
Raleigh, N.C. 18.8 64 34
Chicago 18.3 65 33
Charlotte, N.C. 18.2 62 35
St. Louis 17.5 58 40
Milwaukee 15.9 60 39
Houston 14.5 55 44
Indianapolis 13.2 59 40
Nashville 13.2 46 50
Buffalo 12.7 35 61
Columbus, Ohio 12.7 52 47
Louisville, Ky. 12.6 43 55
Orlando 12.1 34 51
Dallas 12.1 57 43
Kansas City 12.0 50 48
Rochester, N.Y. 11.6 42 55
Cincinnati 11.3 50 49
Oklahoma City 10.4 41 49
Hartford, Conn. 10.1 51 47
Tampa 9.4 33 51
Pittsburgh 8.6 39 61
Los Angeles 8.2 41 55
San Francisco 8.2 48 48
Las Vegas 7.5 44 54
Sacramento, Calif. 7.1 47 47
Inland Empire, Calif. 6.9 35 59
Boston 6.8 41 54
Austin 6.7 60 39
San Diego 6.3 44 50
San Antonio 6.1 43 56
Minneapolis** 5.7 67 32
Seattle** 5.6 52 45
Denver ** 5.3 65 34
Phoenix 4.3 43 49
Providence, R.I. 4.6 36 62
Portland, Ore. 3.0 59 40
Salt Lake City 1.2 57 39

* Obama was not on the Michigan ballot.

** Denotes cities in states that held caucuses.