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Presidential Primaries: The Problem With Open Scoring

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In the sport of boxing judges use a 10-point must system that allows them to record the winner and loser of each round after it is completed. Under normal circumstances these scores are kept secret until the final bell has rung and the winner is announced.

Unfortunately due to repeated scandals throughout the years, the fans occasionally question the integrity of the judges and demand for the scoring to be opened up for public consumption. In these situations after rounds four and eight the scores are tabulated and announced to the crowd. If the scores seem fair there is little change in the action but if the fans disagree with the scores their rumblings persuade the judges to alter their perspective.

This open scoring system is exactly what we have in our presidential primaries. If each state is a round and the delegates are the judges then the tug of public persuasion is a significant part of the process. My question is what if this over-analysis is clouding the obvious? What if the contest is already over but our desire to influence the final outcome has taken precedence over the raw numbers? Let’s do a little experiment to see if this might be the case.

Imagine for a moment that we had a closed system where all the votes up to this point had been counted in secret. Imagine that no one knew who won what states or where any of the momentum has swung. Imagine that we have been watching this fight with only our best guess to guide us in speculation. Now, imagine that today everything was announced at once and we all set back to let the scores speak for themselves.

The three ringside judges will have rendered a verdict. The delegate judge has this fight for Barack Obama with a score of 1611 to 1480. The state judge also has this fight for Obama with a score of 28 to 14. The popular vote judge concurs having this fight for Obama with a score of 13 million to 12 million. All three judges agree on the outcome giving Illinois Senator Barack Obama a unanimous decision for the Democratic nomination. The only problem is this isn’t the end of the twelfth round. It’s more like the end of the tenth.

Suddenly the question of experience doesn’t matter so much. Hillary has always claimed to be a heavyweight but most of her gym time was spent sparring with former heavyweight king Bill Clinton. Thus far she has proven to be an adequate fighter, perhaps formidable but not a great one. The sparring might have prepared her to compete with the best but it wasn’t enough to win. Barack on the other hand is a brash, young, light heavyweight with talent and spunk. He has shown the speed and flexibility to out-maneuver her deep inside the pocket and has come out of each slugfest virtually unscathed.

Regardless of what round it is, this fight is all but over. Barack has put enough points in the bank to walk away with a comfortable decision. The only way Hillary can win is to push for a knockout and from what we’ve seen thus far it doesn’t appear that she has the punching power to make it happen. She will no doubt chase him to the final bell but it will be for naught.

I’m not suggesting that we should have a closed system. In a free and honest democracy we need as much disclosure as possible to maintain the integrity of the process. However, it is possible that we are deluding ourselves. Even if Hillary wins the last two rounds, even if her husband sleeps with one of the judges, even if every lawyer in the country tries to argue their case by raiding the offices of Friday Night Fights, none of it matters. The light heavyweight prospect out of Chicago has bulked up a little, risen to the challenge, and lined himself up as the number one contender for the soon to be vacant Heavyweight Championship of the World.

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