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Clinton’s “Decent Shot.”

April 4th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

There’s a ton of data here, but it boils down to:

All told, this gives Hillary around a 100K margin of victory, using Obama’s best count system (use caucus estimates, don’t us FL or MI). In truth, I think the best system credits FL — both were on the ballot, neither campaigned, and even though the delegates don’t count, the votes were still cast. Under this count, she wins by almost a half million votes — exactly Gore’s popular vote win over Bush.

And therein lies the rub. Are the Democrats, who still feel victimized by 2000, going to go with the person who very narrowly won the bizarre system of delegate allocations? Who won because of Texas’ primacaucus, and the refusal to seat FL and MI?

But then again, are they going to not nominate the first African-American who won the most delegates? Or will they gamble on the notion that blacks will still turn out Democrat, or will at worst stay home, while the women and blue collar Dems who supported Hillary might really vote for McCain?

It’s a mess for Democrats under that scenario. I don’t know what the Superdelegates will do. Heck, we don’t even know who all the Superdelegates are at this point! But she has a reasonable pathway to get to this point. And once she gets there, it is anybody’s ballgame.

(BTW, also note that calling for her to drop out before PA, PR, KY and WV vote would be akin to asking Obama to drop out because he was trailing with GA, AL, and MS yet to vote. It’s cutting her off before literally her best states vote).

Despite all of the mind-boggling flip flopping over what she’s supposedly been saying to folks like Richardson, this particular scenario “feels” right when you’re trying to understand what continues to drive Clinton.

She really DOES have a strong shot at winning the popular vote.

While there’s a ton of focus on the delegate system at the moment, defending it (as Obama must at this point) essentially forces you to buy into “The System” - not exactly the best spot for a populist maverick whose campaign is supposedly all about change. After all, it’s the same method that handed Bush the presidency in 2000 - something Clinton is certain to harp on when the time comes.

She really DID win Florida where both candidates were on the ballot but neither campaigned.

Both Clinton and Obama had supporters who campaigned unofficially on behalf of their preferred candidates, but neither campaign spent money, time or resources on the race. Say what you will about the timing and obvious political expediency of Clinton’s sudden support for seating Florida’s (and Michigan’s) delegates, but it is clear beyond reasonable argument that Florida is one of the potential “king maker” states in the 2008 general election - as it has been for the past few elections. And Clinton is clearly stronger in Florida than Obama. Her seeking to “give them a voice” while Obama toes the party line is only making that distinction more intense.

She really DOES win more “purple” states.

While there are still a few purple states left to vote, the trend in those states has been strongly in Clinton’s favor:

New Hampshire - Clinton - 4 electoral votes
Pennsylvania - Clinton (presumed) - 21 electoral votes
Arkansas- Clinton - 6 electoral votes
Florida - Clinton - 27 electoral votes
Virginia - Obama - 13 electoral votes
West Virginia - Clinton (presumed) - 5 electoral votes
Iowa - Obama - 7 electoral votes
Michigan - Clinton - 17 electoral votes
Minnesota - Obama - 10 electoral votes
Missouri - Obama - 11 electoral votes
Ohio - Clinton - 20 electoral votes
Colorado - Obama - 9 electoral votes
Nevada - Clinton - 5 electoral votes
New Mexico - Clinton - 5 electoral votes
Oregon - Clinton (presumed) - 7 electoral votes

Clinton - 117 electoral votes
Obama - 50 electoral votes

You can certainly make arguments that any Democrat has a decent shot at these states in the general election (otherwise, they wouldn’t be purple), but it’s hard to argue - compared to Clinton - that Obama ISN’T starting in a hole when it comes to winning these contests.

She probably DOES have more insulation against McCain defections than Obama does.

Historically, it’s significantly easier to move older, white and female voters (Hillary’s “go-to” demographics) out of the Democratic Party towards centrist conservatives than it is to move young and black voters (Obama’s “go-to” demographics). While there is a lot of finger-crossing and hope on the Left that the Democratic party will come together more or less entirely behind whoever the eventual nominee is, there isn’t going to be much time to apply salve to the wounds inflicted by the protracted primary once the convention wraps up. McCain is an attractive alternative for the sort of voters who are currently supporting Hillary and it’s a safe bet that a decent chunk of them WILL defect if Obama is the nominee.

That being said, it’s probably not a total slam-dunk that Obama supporters will easily transition to Clinton if she wins in the end. Obama’s “youth vote” supporters in particular are quite likely to just stay home if he doesn’t get the nod.

The DNC is a rudderless ship.

This may be Clinton’s most significant “lifeline” at the moment. Howard Dean is useless and the party has no elder statesmen who are able (or in the case of Gore, WILLING) to step in and name a “party favorite.” Obama has received a procession of seemingly high profile endorsements (Kennedy, Kerry, Carter, Richardson), but they’ve all proven largely impotent in terms of seriously tipping things in Obama’s favor. Bill Clinton’s inability to behave himself on the campaign trail has certainly been a similar feather in Obama’s cap. Barring a miracle situation where Gore wakes up between now and Pennsylvania and decides to anoint an heir, this campaign WILL remain a street fight all the way to the convention.

So, in the end, Clinton definitely has a strong chance of getting the nomination at this point. Clearly, she isn’t going to win the nomination outright with delegate numbers and she’s actually quite unlikely to catch Obama in that regard either. But she may very well be looking completely beyond the delegate/superdelegate system and prepping for a fight where she recasts Obama as the “party insider” whose only shot at the nomination is undermining the popular vote in favor of a “Bush-style” victory. She, on the other hand, is the “party outsider” whose support comes from the popular vote, instead of “The System.”

Curiouser and curiouser.


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