Obama Will Narrowly Win the Popular Vote
There are innumerable caveats to any popular vote total in the nomination campaign. Some states held primaries, while other held caucuses. Some primaries were open to all registered voters, others to only Democrats and Independents, and still others to only Democrats. The staggered primary calendar is another major issue, which resulted in many states having different candidates on the ballot, and voters with varying knowledge of results. Some states did not even keep popular vote totals. Michigan and Florida are also obviously major caveats. No campaigning took place in those states before the voting began, many voters stayed home because they were told the elections wouldn't count, and Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan. Further, a nomination campaign is not about the popular vote, and there wasn't a single campaign that used the popular vote as a metric before the voting caucusing began. So, the popular vote is a contentious metric in the nomination campaign, to say the least.
However, whatever the difficulties of applying the value to the specific "election" that is the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination campaign, there is also an obvious value to the principle that the individual with the most support of the electorate should win any given election. Governing power should always derive from the popular will, and we should always work to make our system of government more democratic. The lack of a clear, consistent definition of the popular vote in the Democratic presidential nomination campaign speaks of the serious flaws in the process itself. For all of the reasons listed in the first paragraph, not only is there no universally accepted definition of the popular vote, but as a party we are also a long way from instituting a democratic form of intra-party governance. Major changes need to be made in advance of the 2012 nomination contest, and all future nomination contests, so that our election process better adheres to democratic principles.
As I have argued in the past, within the context of the 2008 Democratic nomination contest, any attempt to determine who won the "popular vote" should adhere to democratic principles itself, as best as can be done. This is because the "popular vote" is not a legal argument, and not specific to any campaign, but instead a moral one based on abstract principles of democracy. As such, popular vote totals should do the following: