Yglesias points out the problems with Ambinder’s claim that “Obama cannot win the states where the majority of Democrats reside”: i.e. it’s a more tendentious way of saying that “Clinton won California,” which I don’t think entitles her to the nomination in itself. But Ambinder goes on to make a straightforwardly illogical assertion:
John McCain’s advisers are probably thinking: woe unto the Democratic nominee who refuses to organize; woe unto the Democratic nominee who appeals to activists perfectly and regular Democrats kinda sorta.
The idea that Obama’s greater appeal to independents and purple-state swing voters makes him a less formidable general election candidate is simply bizarre. Given that the Dems would win New York and California with a Mark Slaughter/Jani Lane ticket, a candidate very well-liked among Democrats isn’t remotely vulnerable there even if primary voters in those states marginally prefer another strong candidate. Meanwhile, his greater appeal to independents and ability to mobilize lower-turnout groups (like young people) has the potential to put states into play that Clinton (who seems strongest in states where the Dems are already a mortal lock) can’t –indeed, this why I think polls showing Obama to be a much stronger opponent for McCain are almost certainly right. (Indeed, I think they understate Obama’s advantage; piling up larger majorities in solidly blue states doesn’t help the Dems in the electoral college.) In theory, it’s possible that the candidate who’s a little stronger in red states would be much more conservative, but in this case that’s not true (which is why Obama has in fact won several blue liberal states, including one in Clinton’s backyard.) For that matter, I’m also not sure why Clinton not spending resources in caucuses she doesn’t think she can win hurts her general election chances, but I always forget that everything is always good for McCain.
To follow-up on Rob’s state-by-state counts, they seem about right. My reasons for thinking that Clinton should still be favored are that 1)The demographics that make Obama a better candidate in the general make Clinton better in the primaries: her older, more female base is more certain to turn out, which makes it harder for Obama to get upsets, and 2)if the delegate count is very close, Clinton has to be favored among the superdelegates. In addition to Wisconsin, to put this beyond the reach of the superdelegates I think Obama needs to pick off one of the big three. Ohio seems like the most likely spot to pick off a state Clinton is expected to win, but a string of victories (Maine tonight would help with the narrative) could create a dynamic that puts the less demographically favorable Texas and Pennsylvania into play.
The scene: a small non-chain coffee shop. Two older gentleman (say, in their 70s) sit at a small metal table. One has a driving cap on and speaks with a thick Eastern European accent (we’ll call him Man #1).
Man #1: Now it’s down to Clinton and Obama and they are friends one minute and enemies the next.
Man #2: Hm.
Man #1: What I want to know is if she’s gonna get him back?
Man #2: Hm?
Man #1: I think when (sic.) she gets elected, they’re [ed. note: I think he meant Obama & H. Clinton] gonna have an affair as payback for what her husband did.
So my question is this: is this really what passes for political dialogue these days!?
But I’m sure many of the people thrilled about the good old-fashioned bare-knuckled politics she showed in seeking ex post facto electoral rule changes to steal a substantial block of delegates will also admire her campaign’s race-baiting — hey, at least she’ll be our Machiavellian bastard, right? (Note: Machiavellian street-fighting guarantee void during GOP foreign policy catastrophes, although they will reappear if necessary to distort the records of people who actually got the war right.) And when she amends her flag-burning legislation to require every state Capitol in the country to display the Confederate flag, hey, that may be worth a few votes in Florida, right? And when Mark Penn, Union Buster (TM) drafts a constitutional amendment to overturn the Wagner Act…
Publius, while accepting the validity of grievances against the frequently sexist coverage of her campaign, tries to make it. To me, #1 remains the most persuasive. I think Obama might have a marginally more progressive domestic policy, but the differences are narrow enough that this could be mistaken. But it’s hard for me to get around the fact that Clinton completely botched the most important issue of the Bush era. (Moreover, I’m not willing to assume that her vote for the war was an “insincere political gamble;” that’s possible, but I think we have to accept the possibility that she voted for the war because she supported the war.) See also Ann Friedman on this issue.
And her pro-war vote is not merely problematic on the merits; it’s also bad politics. On the “Clinton electability” issue, as Ygelsias says Drum is narrowly right but takes on only the weakest version of the argument. I have never argued that Clinton is “unelectable,” and it’s likely that the structural conditions in November will make any Democratic candidate a favorite over any Republican. But this doesn’t mean that Clinton/McCain isn’t the worst plausible matchup for the Democrats. And even assuming that head-to-head polls aren’t useful at this point, the fact that Clinton took the Republican position on the most important issue and hence will be unable to exploit an issue that should favor the Dems will surely be a problem. And there are a variety of other areas in which Obama has more upside. Obama has the ability to mobilize voters who generally turn out in relatively smaller numbers, while Clinton’s core constituency (older women) already votes at disproportionately high levels. And while we don’t know for certain that Obama’s lower negatives and favorable media coverage will hold up, the worst that can happen is dropping to Clinton’s levels, and it’s more likely that he would be a better candidate than Clinton in those areas. (And I’m not arguing that conservatives won’t attack Obama; the question is how much right-wing critiques will penetrate the mainstream media and swing voters.)
Now, if you want to argue that given a candidate than can win a primary “electability” is just too unpredictable a factor to be meaningful, that’s fair enough; but I don’t really see a good progressive case for Clinton on the merits either.
Heading into tonight’s New Hampshire primary with McCain and Obama as the frontrunners, I have to wonder….does anyone else find it funny that McCain keeps calling for change, yet his policy proposals ensure more of the same?
I know Romney, too, is touting himself as a candidate for change. All of which makes me want to short with derision. Is this some wonk’s strategy to undermine Obama’s calls for change?
The Clinton campaign is arguing that Obama is too “progressive” for their tastes, with a little too much background in community activism. Indeed. Obama just doesn’t have the Joementum! for Mark Penn, Union Buster.
Archpundit has a response to questions about the difficulty of getting the interrogation videotaping bill passed here: “It was fought tooth and nail Kevin. The cops and prosecutors were adamantly against it for some time including the Democratic Cook County Prosecutor. I swore reform was dead after the commutations, Obama pulled it off. It was an incredible sight. The end result was truly amazing. The police groups hated the idea and they hated racial profiling legislation — he passed both without angering them, but by working with them, listening, and showing good faith. I never thought it would pass with Democratic State’s Attorneys opposing it, strongly even — but he pulled everyone along and did it pretty quickly.”
I agree wholeheartedly that Obama isn’t “the second coming of JFK.” If you’re looking in increase the chances of a presidency with negligible, center-right domestic policy achievements combined with an ruinously idiotic war, Clinton’s your candidate (although, really, the comparison is unfair to her as well.)
An important piece by Charles Peters about Obama’s work in the Illinois legislature, including working to compel both houses of the legislature into passing a law requiring videotaped confessions — the kind of civil liberties protection that it’s very difficult to get legislatures to initiate. As Hilzoy pointed out, this has often been true at the federal level as well. He’s sponsored important and generally good legislation on important but low-profile issues, as opposed to doing stuff like sponsoring idiotic and unconstitutional flag-burning legislation. When you combine this record with a stunning ability to mobilize new voters, progressive backers of Clinton against Obama should have a very uphill struggle on their hands in trying to persuade progressives to back their candidate.
As I turned to my distraction from inane television punditry, it occurred to me that we could see not only the first African-American president but the first NHL MVP of color in 2008. Clearly, Iginla was robbed of the ’02 MVP because of the grand cosmic plan! Everything is falling into place!
Seriously, even I skipped most of the first period to watch Obama’s speech, and I concur with theemergingconsensusthat it was superb. And not surprisingly so — it guarantees nothing, but he has the best political skills of any major Democrat since Bill Clinton. More generally, tonight’s events push me closer to being unambiguously pro-Obama. First, I think having lost Iowa Edwards can’t actually win; the best he can do is to stay strong enough to hand the race to Clinton, which remains the least desirable outcome. And second, his ability to mobilize new voters is a huge asset, especially since he’s also more progressive than the at least one of the two other major candidates.
And, of course I have to join Becks in saluting the U.S.’s supremely rational electoral system and the wisdom of giving the first vote to the fine citizens of Iowa…