Clinton: "The people... have chosen [their] candidate"

Speaking to supporters after her victory in Puerto Rico's Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton gives an assessment of the race that might surprise some people.

Published June 1, 2008 11:18PM (EDT)

It might not ultimately prove to mean anything, but in the speech Hillary Clinton gave to her supporters after her win in Puerto Rico's Democratic primary, she gave no signs that she's ready to concede the race to Barack Obama quite yet. In fact, though most observers have all but declared Obama the winner of the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton gave a decidedly different assessment on Sunday.

"We are winning the popular vote," Clinton said. "Now there can be no doubt: The people have spoken and you have chosen your candidate."

It's now clear that this will be the argument the Clinton camp will pursue might prove to be the final days of the Democratic race. The question is how long the Clinton camp will pursue that argument with superdelegates, and whether they'll attempt to ensure that the race doesn't come to a close shortly after the final Democratic primaries are held on Tuesday, as many reporters predict -- and as Barack Obama's campaign surely hopes -- it will.

"[W]hen the voting concludes on Tuesday, neither Senator Obama nor I will have the number of delegates to be the nominee," Clinton said. "I will lead the popular vote, he will maintain a slight lead in the delegate count. The decision will fall on the shoulders of those leaders in our party empowered by the rules to vote at the Democratic convention."

As I've mentioned before, the assertion Clinton made about the popular vote isn't as objectively true as she made it out to be. There are several different ways the national popular vote total can be tallied, and Obama actually leads in most of them. It will be hard, if not impossible, for the Clinton campaign to win the popular vote argument as long as they have to include numbers from the disputed primaries in Florida and Michigan to do so.

The rest of the speech, for the most part, touched on familiar themes from previous election night addresses. But because of the special status of Puerto Rico, there were some interesting touches tailored specifically to residents of the commonwealth. At one point, for example, Clinton told the crowd, "I hope by my second term, regardless of what the people of Puerto Rico decide about the status option you prefer, you too will be able to vote for the next president of the United States."

That's an ambitious goal, to say the least. When describing how the president will be elected, the Constitution specifies, "Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors." (Emphasis mine.) Puerto Rico is not a state, and if it chooses not to become one, then an amendment to the Constitution would be required in order to grant the commonwealth votes in the Electoral College, as the Twenty-third Amendment did for Washington, D.C. It's hard to imagine Republicans going along happily with an amendment that would almost certainly help Democratic presidential candidates for years to come.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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