Monday, 21 January 2008

US election process confuses the media

After I found about about the results in Nevada and South Carolina and read some of the analysis on the internet, I ended up thinking the following:

Does the mainstream media in the US understand their country's election process?

At the moment I don't think they do. Recently Nevada had their caucus and the following is the results for the Democrats:
CandidateVotes (%)Delegates
Hillary Clinton5112
Barack Obama4513
John Edwards40
Dennis Kucinich00
Bill Richardson00
You'll notice that even though Clinton got more votes, Obama got the most delegates. It seems that most of the time getting the majority of the votes means you'll get the most delegates, but as you can see from this, it doesn't always happen (another example of this would be the election in 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote, but George W. Bush won because more people in the Electoral College voted for him).

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, delegates mean more than actual voters in the US because it's those people who go to the conventions and decide who will be the presidential candidate for their party.

This article in the New York Times is a perfect example of how the media is reporting the result:
"Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, capturing strong support from women voters and adding a fresh boost of momentum to her campaign as the Democratic presidential race heads to South Carolina, where she is engaged in a fierce battle with her rival, Senator Barack Obama."
Yes, she won the popular vote, but as I've just mentioned, that means nothing. Obama got more delegates in that state and has the most overall on the Democrat side - so he's the real winner. The likes of the NY Times seem to forget that.

There was a poor result for John Edwards, but there is still time for his prospects to improve. There's always the possiblity that Super Tuesday (an event when multiple primaries happen on the same day) could make him the front runner. Uncommitted - that mysterious candidate who did so well in Michigan, managed to finish ahead of Dennis Kucinich, but both got 0 delegates, so they both must be disappointed. I noticed that Bill Richardson was on the results table, which is strange because he's withdrawn from the race. I noticed that same thing happening with Chris Dodd and one or two others in some states - I wonder why their names aren't removed?

On the Republican side, more candidates got delegates, but it was Mitt Romney who won by a signifcant margin in terms of delegates (18) and votes (51%). Surprisingly, Ron Paul finished second in terms of votes and joint second with John McCain (both candidates got four delegates). As usual it was a poor performance for Rudy Giuliani and as each state vote passes by, it looks even less likely that he will become the GOP candidate for President - but there is still time for things to change.

According to this Los Angeles Times article, only Romney and Paul were the active campaigners in Nevada though. I still think it's disgraceful when candidates don't treat every state with respect.

In South Carolina, the GOP primary also took place (the Democrat primary happens on January 26th) and there was a big win for John McCain, which makes him look more and more like a top contender. Even though he only beat Mike Huckabee by 3% in terms of votes, but he gained significantly more delegates (McCain got 19, Huckabee got 5). Ron Paul didn't perform as well getting 4% and 0 delegates (others to get 0 delegates were Mitt Romney - surprising, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and Duncan Hunter).

It's worth pointing out at this point that Duncan Hunter has now dropped out of the race:
"I ran the campaign exactly the way I wanted to, and at this point not being able to gain traction in conservative states of Nevada and South Carolina, it's time to allow our volunteers and supporters to focus on the campaigns that remain viable."
The media isn't the only people who are confused at the moment. Recently, USAToday mentioned the following in this article:
"The former president trumpeted New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's accomplishments while painting Obama as the "establishment" candidate who would bring only the "feeling of change.""
Obviously, this is heavily biased given that Bill is Hillary's husband and also part of her campaign team, but the former President seems to forget that Hillary is the one with the Whitehouse experience (as she was the former First Lady).

It was also implied in this article that Bill questioned Obama's opposition to the war in Iraq. I seem to remember in some of the debates that Obama, like most of the other candidates felt that a withdrawal was needed. I also decided to look at US Senate records and I found the following:

IRAQ -- (Senate - January 30, 2007)
"The American people have waited. The American people have been patient. We have given chance after chance for a resolution that has not come and, more importantly, watched with horror and grief at the tragic loss of thousands of brave young American soldiers.

The time for waiting in Iraq is over. The days of our open-ended commitment must come to a close. The need to bring this war to an end is here.

That is why today I am introducing the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007. This plan would not only place a cap on the number of troops in Iraq and stop the escalation; more importantly, it would begin a phased redeployment of United States forces with the goal of removing all United States combat forces from Iraq by March 31, 2008, consistent with the expectations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that the President has so assiduously ignored."
"I will vote today to bring up a resolution for debate that would disapprove of the President's policy of escalation in Iraq."
It seems that the President doesn't have a knowledge of recent senate activities or his wife's CV. It's amazing what bias does to a person.

So, what do you think?

Democrats, Republicans, Elections, USA, Politics


Alfred Thompson said...

Often candidates names remain on the ballot even though they have dropped out because of either the ballots being pre-printed and it being expensive to re-print them or there being specific rules or laws around removing names that make it a difficult process to protect people from being removed unfairly.

As for the difference between popular vote and delegate count I think that the media does understand this but is also more concerned about perception over reality in some cases. The media likes to keep it simple as well. With the total number of delegates being selected so far being pretty small the difference of one doesn't mean a whole lot. On the other hand the difference in popular vote appears to be much larger. Although honestly the number of people in the early caucuses is pretty small as well. The percentages make it seem like a big gap but in terms of total number of people it is small. But the media sells by making small things seem big.