Given the bitterness of so many Hillary Clinton supporters that the woman they thought would be America's first female president will not be, the more they hear the suggestion that Sen. Barack Obama's win is illegitimate, the more likely they are to bolt. If Senator Clinton's voters embrace the story that "a man took it away from a woman," denying her a victory she deserved, they're at risk of staying home come November, or holding back from the volunteering and get-out-the-vote efforts necessary for the Democrats to prevail.
That's why it's so unfortunate that Mrs. Clinton continues to claim that "we are winning the popular vote." Because that statement is a lie - and it undermines every word she has recently spoken about the need for the party to come together.
Look at Mrs. Clinton's math. She leads only if you give her 328,000 votes for the Michigan primary election, while giving Mr. Obama zero for not being on the ballot. But you also have to ignore the caucuses of Iowa, Nevada, Maine and my state of Washington - where a record quarter-million people turned out to participate. Our votes don't count under Mrs. Clinton's math. If the media corrected this, it would be less of a problem, but they haven't, or at least not in the same stories where they repeat her claim. After the Oregon and Kentucky vote, an Associated Press story in my local newspaper reported Mrs. Clinton's claim without question, saying only that it included contested Florida and Michigan votes and excluded the Iowa caucuses. A New York Times story included not even the slightest corrections or caveats. Neither mentioned that polls have Mr. Obama doing marginally better in Michigan than Mrs. Clinton. And no one has explored the impact of the roughly 60,000 Democratic voters who crossed over in Michigan to vote Republican - in part as a response to encouragement by liberal bloggers trying to further the Republican bloodletting by encouraging Democrats to vote for Mitt Romney.
Mrs. Clinton's emphasis on popular vote totals also ignores that this isn't how the party's rules are set up, and that if they had been, Mr. Obama would have made time, after the Iowa victory that made voters take him seriously, to have visited California and New York more than he did, given the size of those states.
Every time Mrs. Clinton claims she has a popular majority, she's shattering whatever cease-fire exists and making it that much more likely that her supporters will stay home in November. If she really wants a united party, she needs to stop, and the superdelegates need to hold her accountable.
Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of "The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to
Hope in a Time of Fear." His Web site is