The Metric System

On a long-winded conference call today, Hillary Clinton campaign officials did their best to sweet-talk their way around her loss in Iowa. The thesis of their argument: Her organization continues to be better than anybody else’s, so they can get out the vote better than anybody else’s.

At various points during the call, the Clinton staffers touted different metrics to prove that their GOTV effort is best among Democrats’. A rundown of why none of them makes a convincing case:

Polls: Time and time again, they cited polls from various early primary and Feb. 5 states. All of those numbers are now outdated, thanks to Obama’s win. Plus, leading in the polls didn’t exactly help Clinton in Iowa.

Delegate count: At one point, Terry McAuliffe, Clinton’s campaign chairman, said Clinton still led in the delegate count . While true, McAuliffe knows journalists won’t take that bait. The race for the U.S. presidency is about momentum, not delegates. Delegates are pesky distractions that make the whole process seem legitimate.

Crowd size:  Does this stat really mean anything ? It did for Obama in Iowa, but that could be a quirk of the caucuses. Clinton’s camp cited her ability to get 2,500 people to a rally in Nevada as proof that she can get people to come out and vote. But doing that while Obama (and Edwards) are holding their own events next door is a whole other matter.

Phone calls and doorknockers : Record turnouts meant independents and Republicans showed up and voted for Obama. That means, in a way the Clinton campaign can never admit, that they would have actually preferred if fewer people voted. The fewer Republicans, the better, at this point. Even McAuliffe had to admit that “we hit and exceeded our target numbers we wanted in Iowa.” Despite phone banks and door-to-door canvassing, Clinton lost Iowa because of Obama’s indies. The issue is getting people to vote for Hillary, not vote.