The Realignment We've Been Waiting For

Yesterday, Chris Bowers created a fascinating electoral map that shows the best case scenario of how an Obama/Clinton ticket would fare against McCain/generic running mate by assigning states according to the best performance by either Obama or Clinton against McCain in general election match-ups. As you can imagine, the result was...well...

The result is a blowout, where Democrats hold a statistically significant lead in states with 300 electoral votes, and McCain's "solid" states drop to under 100 electoral votes. If Democrats were to gain only five more points on this map, an entirely doable proposition given the overwhelming Democratic advantage among fundraising and volunteers, and this is a realignment map. At that point, Democrats would win over 400 electoral votes, something we have not accomplished since 1964.

This sort of realignment was always the promise that an Obama candidacy represented, transformation via building an "American majority," but so far it's just not manifesting itself in any meaningful way. Sure, it's still early and yes, Obama regularly beats McCain in national general election match-ups, but looking at the whole picture, Bowers today concludes Obama is not favored in the general election. It's not the way most Obama supporters saw it going down, but more and more it's becoming clear that the best way to fulfill that transformative electoral potential is to add Hillary Clinton to an Obama ticket. Doing otherwise is asking for another 50+1 victory, if that.

MSNBC made an interesting point yesterday. There's been a lot of handwringing lately about how many Democrats are threatening to vote for John McCain in the general if their candidate doesn't win the nomination. In Kentucky, for example, MSNBC exit polls show 32% of Democrats would vote for John McCain if Barack Obama is the nominee. On its face, that seems rather high but MSNBC took the next step and looked back to 2004 and found that actually 30% of Kentucky Democrats voted for George W. Bush against John Kerry. In other words, maybe Democrats aren't more divided than usual after all this year; at the same time, however, it suggests that Obama might really just John Kerry 2.0. On the other hand, only 17% of Kentucky Democrats said they would vote for John McCain if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. She cuts McCain defectors by 50%. That is pretty remarkable.

Not that Kentucky is going to go to the Democrats no matter who is on the ticket, but, as Bowers says:

...we are not going to achieve a realignment unless we win all of the states where one candidate or the other is strong. We need Obama's strength in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington. We also need Clinton's strength in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia. If we are going to truly realign the country, we need to win all of those states, plus a few others like Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana, four seemingly red states where both candidates are performing reasonably well.

In other words, we need to combine the Clinton coalition with the Obama coalitions, rather than arguing over whose coalition is superior.

Indeed. And, how better to do this than to put both candidates on the ticket?

Chris also makes some points that echo some of my own sentiments from a couple weeks ago.

And really, when one looks over the conservative crop of names that are being floated for VP, like Strickland, Webb, and Bayh, isn't Clinton actually preferable to all of them, too? Not to mention that we are going to have to heal the party, and giving Clinton the VP slot is probably the fastest way to do so.

In order to get a real sense of the extent to which adding Clinton to an Obama ticket would prevent defections to McCain and solidify Obama's support in some of the states where she is strongest, every pollster that polls Obama v. McCain and Clinton v. McCain should also poll how McCain performs against the two Democrats on the ticket together. Why they're not already is beyond me.

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