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Tag: "2008 democratic primary"

Clinton Campaign Self-Parody Watch

[ 0 ] May 21, 2008 |

Make it stop:

If I’m not mistaken Terrry McAuliffe just announced two new goalposts.

1. Hillary has gotten more votes and delegates since March 4th.

2. Hillary has gotten more votes in a nomination race than anyone in history. “Hillary Clinton has now received more votes than any candidate ever running for president in a primary.”

The central premise here is a Grade A, or a Jeff Jacoby, level of illogic:

Bush was reelected with the highest vote total in American history.

I trust the idiocy here is transparent.

But wait! At least what Jacoby said is literally true. Whereas, as Josh points out, unless you insult people’s intelligence by counting North Korea-style one-major-candidate unsanctioned not-even-straw polls and not counting several contests actually sanctioned by the party (under standards McAuliffe contemporaneously supported), the person who wins under the meaningless “most primary votes in history” metric is…Barack Obama.

Given that the Clinton campaign seems to think this crap will actually convince people, it’s pretty easy why they thought that blowing off a month’s worth of primaries and caucuses was an effective strategy.

…I can understand people thinking this kind of thing is trivial. But I don’t think that’s right. It should be remembered that Clinton’s campaign (see also) is using these ridiculous Calvinball metrics to undermine the legitimacy of the Democratic nominee. If there was any significant chance that she could win, that might be acceptable. If she even had a credible argument that she was ahead in the popular vote — one anyone would have accepted before the nomination, without knowing who it would benefit — that would be a different issue. But to send flacks to rile up other Democrats against Obama under these circumstances is a disgrace.

Take it to the Bank…

[ 15 ] May 20, 2008 |

I predict that if Barack Obama wins a double digit victory in Kentucky today, Senator Clinton will concede. Judging solely by conversation with my small group of Lexington friends, this outcome seems entirely likely.

Off to vote…

Sure… But Why?

[ 0 ] May 15, 2008 |

I think Bob Beckel is correct here; if Clinton wants the VP slot and displays a willingness to fight for it, she’ll get it. While I doubt that Clinton would be the best VP pick in a perfect world, the process of fighting off a vigorous effort on her part to land a spot on the ticket would probably be more destructive to Obama’s chances than any gains he’d achieve by nominating someone else.

But here’s my question; why would Clinton want to be Vice President? Wouldn’t Senate Majority Leader (and I suspect this could be arranged) be a more powerful position? Wouldn’t she have more influence over policymaking there than in the Vice President’s office? I mean this question in all seriousness; Clinton seems to be indicating that she’d like the spot, but I’m befuddled as to why she’d take it, much less fight for it. I suppose that it sets her up for another run in 2016, or perhaps more importantly precludes the emergence of a Vice Presidential rival that year, but marginal improvement on her chances in eight years would seem small recompense for the powerlessness of the VP slot. Let’s remember that Vice Presidents have exactly as much power as the President gives them, and if it’s true that Obama really doesn’t want Hillary (and I wouldn’t credit such assertions too heavily at this point), then he certainly isn’t likely to grant her much power in his administration.

Is there something I’m missing?

Moral vs. Procedural

[ 26 ] May 15, 2008 |

Chris Bowers does a fine job with the popular vote question:

The problem with this popular vote total is that it is a moral argument about the will of the participants in the Democratic nomination campaign, not a legal argument over the definition of the winner of the nomination campaign. Legally, the Democratic nominee is determined by delegates, not by popular vote totals. For a moral argument about the popular vote–a.k.a. the will of the nomination campaign electorate–to carry weight, it needs to be as inclusive as possible in its vote totals. Instead, this vote total pretends that the over 550,000 caucus goers in Washington, Nevada, Maine and Iowa, not to mention the quarter of a million uncommitted voters in Michigan, didn’t actually have candidate preferences in the nomination campaign just because those candidate preferences weren’t recorded. Excluding those 800,000 participants in the nomination campaign from a popular vote toal, especially when exit polls and turnout numbers make close estimates on those preferences quite simple, renders that popular total pointless. Since popular vote totals are statements of moral value, mass exclusions of this sort drains any popular total of all its moral force.

The popular vote total in the nomination campaign is a moral argument about fairness, intra-party democracy, and legitimacy. It isn’t even a moral argument that many people accept, given, among other issues, the variances in voter eligibility from state to state, the various “legitimacy” of the nomination events used in the totals, and the staggered primary calendar itself.

Which is pretty much a more eloquent version of what I wrote here.

On the "Unity Ticket"

[ 45 ] May 11, 2008 |

Armando requests a more detailed argument about why it would not be irrational for Obama to choose someone other than Clinton for his running mate. (And let me be clear: I am not saying that there aren’t reasonable arguments in favor of Clinton, just that the merits of the idea are hardly self-evident. In addition, of course, I was not criticizing “Clinton supporters” but rather blogs featuring apparently serious arguments that Obama is in danger of losing New York and California in the general election.) Since I aim to please, here it is.

First of all, I completely reject his central premise, that the party cannot be unified in the fall if Clinton is not on the ticket. It is of course true that Clinton has many strong and deeply committed supporters, for good reason. But this is also true of any substantially contested primary. And, historically, not matter what they’ve said in the immediate aftermath of defeat, partisans of the losing candidate have generally supported the winning one, even in cases as bitter is GOP 2000. I simply don’t believe that most supporters of Hillary Clinton are narcissistic enough to want John McCain to be elected out of spite should she be a powerful and influential senator rather than a vice presidential candidate, and certainly it’s going to take a lot more than bare assertion for me to take this condescending attitude towards her supporters. (I do agree with Armando on one narrow point: I think Obama’s prominent supporters should follow his lead, be gracious, and not say anything about the VP slot. Kennedy’s comments are indeed not terribly productive. But whether he’s wrong on the merits is a separate question that we bloggers surely can discuss.)

So, I simply don’t believe that this is the only criterion that should be considered. And there are others on which Clinton is a less-than-ideal VP candidate, some of which I’ve already mentioned. First, by far the biggest impact of vice presidents on the ticket is the potential to bring a swing home state into the fold, which Clinton doesn’t offer. Second, if the idea is to shore up Obama’s “foreign policy cred” you want someone with military experience but who opposed the war (such as Webb or Clark); Clinton of course is the opposite. Third, the media. It’s hard to know what to do about the media’s grossly unfair treatment of Clinton; if I was convinced that she would make the best president I wouldn’t let it dissuade me. But when picking a running mate, surely this has to be considered a great deal more important. Fourth, partly because of the unfair treatment she receives from the media, she has much higher negatives than you would prefer in a VP candidate. Finally, even if you assume this is a lot more important than I do I should note that the fact that Clinton appeals more to lower-class whites and older voters 1)compared to Obama and (this is the important step for those of you who don’t understand why it’s illogical to make inferences about the general from primary results) 2)among people who vote in Democratic primaries hardly means that she is the optimal choice to appeal to these voters compared to other possibilities.

Of course, there are points in her favor. I think she fares very well on the important question of whether she would make a good president if necessary, for example. Her mastery of policy detail would be especially useful (although when it comes to health care I’d much rather have her putting plans together in the Senate, where any plan is going to rise or fall.) The fact that she inspires strong commitments from a lot of voters is also important. And, of course, it all depends on who the other possible choices are. But, on balance, there are other choices I would prefer, and I certainly can’t see how it’s irrational to believe that the #2 spot on the ticket isn’t the best role for Clinton’s future in the party.

The Transition

[ 0 ] May 11, 2008 |

MoDo seems regretful that she will have less reason (at least outside the context of blind dates) to snigger about Bill Clinton’s sex life. But she holds out faint hope for a Vice Presidential nod:

Aside from the delight Bill would get from living at the Naval Observatory and having a huge telescope to window-peep with, there wouldn’t be much joy in Hillaryland.

Hahahahahahahaha! That’s the kind of legendary wit that can get you a Pulitzer prize, or the Tuesday night slot at Yakov Smirnoff’s comedy club in Branson if Carrot Top cancels at the last minute. But won’t Obama think of poor Dowd? After all, if Clinton isn’t on the ticket, how will she continue to discuss completely fabricated pseudo-scandals?

But in a return engagement with Obama at the top, could she really wake up every day in the back seat and wish him well, or would she just be plotting? (Fourteen vice presidents have ascended, after all.) Wouldn’t she be, in Monty Python parlance, the Trojan Rabbit behind the gates?

On a positive note, maybe she could bring back all that stuff she pilfered on her way out.

Sure, this doesn’t make any sense unless you conflate “theft” with “taking some personal gifts with you, with a lesser total value than the previous administration,” but when have facts ever stopped MoDo from smearing the Clintons before?

Anyway, as Cole points out this is the key part in terms of how the smears on Obama are going to proceed:

Now Barack Obama faces a true dilemma: how best to punish Hillary Clinton.

After 15 months of fighting her off, as she veered wildly from bully to victim, as she brandished any ice pick at hand, whether racial, sexual, mathematical or marital (in the form of her Vesuvian husband), Obama must decide the most efficacious means of doing to Hillary what she has been trying to do to him: putting her in her place.

In addition to the obvious projection, I trust you can see what’s going on here. If Obama doesn’t choose Clinton as a running mate, it’s because he wants to “put her in her place.” If he does choose Clinton, it’s because he wants to “put her in her place.” See, when you’re setting up the inevitable endless stream of columns about how Obama is really an womanly effete elitist woman who’s probably lactating even more than Al Gore, you win either way! The country, not so much.

I know that some people in the Clinton Hackosphere are trying to set up the argument that a decision by Obama to choose anybody but Clinton must be motivated by personal animus, because there simply can’t be any rational argument (such as, say, her high negatives, the fact that she would muddy Obama’s message on the most important issue of the Bush era, and the fact that she doesn’t represent a swing state, etc.) against it. But at least I believe that they would be satisfied if Obama picks her.

Annals of Desperate Hackery

[ 9 ] May 10, 2008 |

The nice thing about constructing an “electability” argument is that since you’re largely dealing with the unknowable you can say a great many things without saying anything that’s obviously false. Some Clinton supporters, however, have decided that this wouldn’t be any fun, and have decided to put forward this classic:

As you know, Hillary has racked up victories in bellwether states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and now Indiana

Indiana’s recent presidential election results:

2004 GOP +20
2000 GOP +16
1996 GOP +6
1992 GOP +4 (Perot 20%)
1988 GOP +20
1984 GOP +24
1980 GOP +18
1976 GOP +7
1972 GOP +33
1968 GOP +12

By the standards of Clinton’s backers, then, Obama can definitely count North Carolina and Georgia as victories in crucial “bellwether” states.

In fairness, perhaps they’re just trying to console their candidate. If Indiana is a “bellwether” state, the Democratic nomination was really never worth having in the first place…

Pennism: Fallacious and Offensive

[ 1 ] May 9, 2008 |

Matt says that while Clinton’s assertions about the importance of her greater appeal to “working, hard-working Americans, white Americans” are “one part fallacy, two parts baseless speculation” they’re not “offensive.” Let’s assume that she misspoke and didn’t intend the fairly overt racism of her literal comments; they remain problematic, but it’s a fair assumption. But even given a more charitable interpretation, the fallacies in her argument are precisely what makes it offensive.

The baseless speculation, I assume, is the transparently illogical claim that because Clinton attracts more working-class whites against Obama that she would therefore attract more against McCain. But even if we assume that Clinton would perform better among this group in the general, we are left with the fallacy central to Mark Penn’s approach to politics. Particularly when you consider that turnout as well as margins are not static, there’s no reason why Obama’s lesser performance with respect to any particular demographic can be assumed to be problematic. If Obama does worse among working-class whites in Pennsylvania but compensates by getting a higher turnout among African-Americans and young professionals, so what? The fact that the latter two groups are more reliably Democratic doesn’t matter. If you get an extra 100,000 votes (whether by higher turnout or higher margins), the fact that the relevant demographic was already majority Democratic is wholly irrelevant.

This glaring logical fallacy leads us to what’s offensive. Precisely because which group such analysis chooses to focus on is entirely arbitrary, the choice always reflects political interests (in Penn’s case, inevitably with center-right results.) Clinton has outperformed Obama among a number of demographics, but surely it’s no a coincidence that Clinton — as is usually the case when people make this argument — identified white workers rather than, say, Latinos or older women. It reflects the Bill Schneider assumption that there’s something suspicious about a coalition that doesn’t rely enough on white voters. Jon Chait’s article about Clinton’s desperate embrace of reactionary populism correctly identifies the context in which Clinton’s comments should be evaluated:

Historically, the conservative populist’s social divide ran along racial and ethnic lines. In recent years, overt racism has all but disappeared from mainstream political life, and even racial hot button appeals like the 1988 Willie Horton ad have grown rare. What remains is a residue of nostalgia about small towns–whose residents are said to have stronger values and work harder than other Americans, and who also happen to be overwhelmingly white. In 2004, after John Kerry declared that some entertainers supporting him represented “the heart and soul of America,” George W. Bush embarked upon a national tour of small- and mid-sized cities, where he would say, “I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places like Duluth, Minnesota,” or other such places.

Likewise, Bill Clinton recently declared, “The people in small towns in rural America, who do the work for America, and represent the backbone and the values of this country, they are the people that are carrying her through in this nomination.” The corollary–that strong values and hard work is in shorter supply among ethnically heterogeneous urban residents–is left unstated. Hillary Clinton’s statement about “hard-working Americans, white Americans” simply made explicit a theme that conservative populists usually keep implicit.

The obsessive focus on Obama’s purported weakness among rural or small-town whites in particular clearly reflects the general framework that they are “Real Americans” while people who live in racially diverse urban centers are not. This is not only grossly offensive nonsense — the flipside of condescending, stereotyped portrayals of midwesterners — but offensive nonsense that is greatly beneficial to the Republican Party.

Good Policy: Sometimes Good Politics

[ 0 ] May 9, 2008 |

In assessing a potential unity ticket, Mark Schmitt says:

Obama is in many ways the most plain-spoken liberal to win the Democratic nomination since Walter Mondale. But while Clinton is probably inherently more cautious than Obama, her record marks her as more conservative on only one issue, and that’s the one on which she is most out of step with the vast majority of Americans–the decision to go to war in Iraq. And yet, she still suffers under the reputation, developed during the 1990s, that she is some sort of quasi-socialist. That’s the worst possible combination: perceived as more liberal than she actually is, while being demonstrably more conservative only on less popular points.

Yglesias, in addition, notes the craziness of adding Clinton to the ticket for foreign policy “cred.” It’s just bizarre that there are still Democrats who seem to think that taking a politically and substantively disastrous position on the most important issue of the Bush era is some kind of asset. At any rate, since I think these arguments were the best ones against Clinton’s candidacy for the top of the ticket, it’s not surprising I also think they’re good ones against making her veep. Support for the Iraq War should be a disqualifying factor or something close to it.

There is, I think, and important larger point here. Some people have talked about this week’s primary as being salutary because Clinton’s silly gas tax pander failed, but that’s a trivial example. The war is the big one. Admittedly, this is the kind of counterfactual that’s impossible to prove, but my guess is that if she had voted against the war Clinton would be the Democratic candidate. Given the closeness of the race, her inherent advantages going in, and that the war had to be a liability it’s hard to imagine that she wouldn’t have prevailed without the Iraq albatross. Whether or not Clinton’s support was sincere — I don’t think it really matters — sometimes getting big policies wrong really is politically damaging. (See also the 2006 midterms.) This is evidently a good thing.

Great Moments in Amnesia

[ 66 ] May 8, 2008 |

From a blog that calls itself, impossibly enough, “The Realist”

I want to know what the possibilities are of Hillary going Independent and taking all of us with her? What would be the ramifications if this were to happen?

Hmmm….(looks skyward)….erm….(counts fingers, then recounts)…dum de dum….(pulls abacus from closet, spins wooden beads thoughtfully)….uh….(exhales slowly, staring at shoes)….well….(scratches ear, grimaces slightly)….

No, I can’t imagine there’d be any problems with that. (Wanders off and drowns himself in a toilet.)

Armandologic Goes Mainstream!

[ 49 ] May 8, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim Hillary Clinton: “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on…Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

See, Obama’s coalition is bigger. But Clinton’s is broader, because it consists of more Real Americans and fewer [insert adjectives from RNC attack ad here] elitists and Shiftless Negroes.

Please tell me she was misquoted here; I really never thought that the worst arguments of her hack defenders would start coming from the candidate herself. I may have to retract what I said earlier — if she cares at all about her reputation it may be wise for Clinton to drop out before she says more stuff like this.

see also.

He’s Getting Too Many Votes!!

[ 4 ] May 8, 2008 |

Chuckle.

…Speaking for me only.

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