Electability

Crossposted at Ich Bin Ein Oberliner.

Senator Clinton's buzzword in her losing battle to convince super-delegates to support her campaign has been electability. Mostly, she--and her supporters--rely on a supposed demographic strength (for example, "hardworking Americans, white Americans" etc.) and polling data to show just how strong she would be in the general election versus Senator Obama. Here's my argument: Senator Clinton is probably less electable than Senator Obama.

Using polling data and alleged demographic strength is not the best way to determine electability. There is so much unknown about the coming election; it is unlikely that the field will look even close to what it looks like now. Remember, Senator Kerry was ahead in the polls against President Bush at this point four years ago. This isn't to say that polling data is completely useless, it is an important tool. But elections are very volatile, and polling data is a terrible indication of general election strength this far out.

What is more useful is looking at how candidates build and run their campaigns--something that can be done without relying heavily on counterfactuals, hypotheticals, and wishful thinking about the shape of the general election.

Senator Clinton was the "inevitable" nominee before Iowa. Now, her campaign is running out of money and bleeding support. Senator Obama, on the other hand, seems to have almost won this campaign. What's more, Senator Obama's ability to raise money is nothing short of breathtaking.

My point is, the best way to determine electability is by seeing how a person is winning an election. Senator Obama has demonstrably run a stronger campaign than Senator Clinton. He can raise more money; he can respond to crises better (think Rev. Wright...); he can, you know, win more elections (he's won more elections than Clinton has in this race thus far).

::

The other way people claim Clinton's superior electability is by arguing that Senator Obama is vulnerable to Republican attacks, whereas Senator Clinton isn't--or is less vulnerable. This argument doesn't go through either. Mostly, people assume that Senator Obama is vulnerable because of guilt by association attacks. Senator Clinton, however, is just as vulnerable to these kinds of scurrilous, specious attacks. Consider for example, her husband's pardons. Consider, for example, any potential scandal involving the Clintons. To the people making the attack ads, it won't matter how old (Whitewater) or how stupid (sexism) the attacks are; they will attack. All of this brings me back to how will the candidate respond, not some speculative game: what ads will they make involving Rev. Wright.

::

In short, there's something ridiculous about someone who is losing in every reasonable metric claiming that she is the most electable candidate. Electability is the ability to win an election. Playing speculative games isn't going to give a very good idea of who is electable. Examining the way someone runs a campaign is.

Tags: senator clinton, Senator Obama (all tags)

Comments

55 Comments

Re: Electability

the difference is that Hillary has CONSISTENTLY been leading, whereas Barack Hussein Obama, LIKE JOHN KERRY has swayed back and forth between leading electorally and not leading electorally. There is no comparison. Also, unlike John Kerry, the Clintons won two national elections, and obviously know how to fight back. notice how no one cared about whitewater or his women at all either time. And dont' give me that Ross perot horseshit, the exit polls showed Perot did not make a difference in the winner, along with his pro-choice pro-gay anti-Nafta stances, because I can smell the Perot myth excuse a mile away.

by DiamondJay 2008-05-30 10:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

I guess--and the whole point of my diary--was that there isn't much relevence to polls this far out. Frankly, what does it matter that she's been ahead in the polls for quite some time? We don't know what the field will look like a month from now, not even in November.

Of course no one cared about women (I assume you mean made sexist attacks) when Bill Clinton was running... he's not a woman...

I don't get what you're saying with that.

And, lastly, stop me if I'm reading too much into this, but "Hussein" Obama, really?

by shef 2008-05-30 10:30PM | 0 recs
Don't feed this guy

he has been on a tear tonight.

by Student Guy 2008-05-30 10:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

I know... don't feed the trolls...

Hussein Obama should have been a dead give-away.

by shef 2008-05-30 10:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

I'm sorry, with the hateful and mean things said about Bill and Hillary here, I feel they deserve some payback.

by DiamondJay 2008-05-30 10:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

by RockvilleLiberal2 2008-05-31 05:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

Stop trolling people you don't agree with.

by soyousay 2008-05-31 05:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

I'm not trolling people.  if people want to act like whining spoiled children, then they will be treated as such.  If you have a reasoned argument, I will be more than happy to respond to that in kind, but pissing and moaning gets you no love.

BTW, kind of funny that the Troll King himself calls someone else a troll - pot meet kettle.

by RockvilleLiberal2 2008-05-31 05:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

I asked a question and you trolled me. It's as simple as that.

by soyousay 2008-05-31 05:58AM | 0 recs
you like pictures?

 title=

 title=

I'd be crying if that were my nominee and electoral map too.

by DiamondJay 2008-05-31 07:07AM | 0 recs
Re: you like pictures?

It's a good thing you nominee is:

by RockvilleLiberal2 2008-05-31 07:27AM | 0 recs
Re: you like pictures?

Why the troll rating Diamond Jay?  Seems a bit childish dontcha think?

by RockvilleLiberal2 2008-05-31 07:43AM | 0 recs
HR for TR abuse

by USArmyParatrooper 2008-05-31 07:45AM | 0 recs
Re: HR for TR abuse

Don't HR him - Jay's particular brand of crazy needs to be on full display for everyone to enjoy...

by RockvilleLiberal2 2008-05-31 07:53AM | 0 recs
Re: you like pictures?

Spam a lot?

by Sam Wise Gingy 2008-05-31 03:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

There is a difference btw attcking the Clintons b/c of their policy positions and attacking Obama b/c of his ethnicity.

by DreamsOfABlueNation 2008-05-31 07:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

what does the name "hussein" have to do with his ethnicity?

by DiamondJay 2008-05-31 07:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

It's like you're not even trying to hide it anymore Jay, come on...

by RockvilleLiberal2 2008-05-31 07:47AM | 0 recs
its just his middle name,

thats all.

by DiamondJay 2008-05-31 07:55AM | 0 recs
Re: its just his middle name,

A wink is just as good as a nod to a blind man right, Jay?  Thanks for the TR again...and the 7 others or so you have tossed me in the last hour.  Stay classy.

by RockvilleLiberal2 2008-05-31 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

You can't be serious.  I find it inconceiveable that you don't comprehend that Hussein is an Islamic name and that our nation is at war with 2 Islamic countries.

by DreamsOfABlueNation 2008-05-31 01:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Don't feed this guy

He's not a troll.  He's been posting here and having real discussions as far as I remember.  

You can't label someone a troll just because they have a strong opinion with which you disagree.  I see a narrative developing where a troll theme is being carefully crafted and framed in a way that it happens to include almost every Hillary supporter on the site.  

We all know if you're looking for an echo chamber, you can get your fix at many other sites, regardless of which candidate you support.  

by BPK80 2008-05-30 11:12PM | 0 recs
I came into this diary

from a diary where he called Obama McGovern.

by Student Guy 2008-05-30 11:15PM | 0 recs
Re: I came into this diary

It's a hyperbole and doesn't attack a poster specifically and by name.  Fair game, per the site's rules.  

Criticizing Obama is not tantamount to being a troll.  

by BPK80 2008-05-30 11:38PM | 0 recs
Re: I came into this diary

Criticizing Obama on the basis of his middle name is incompatable with the values we espouse as Democrats.

by DreamsOfABlueNation 2008-05-31 07:07AM | 0 recs
Leading...

the difference is that Hillary has CONSISTENTLY been leading...

Cough cough IRAQ cough.

by Dumbo 2008-05-30 10:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

"Hussein" Troll.

by letterc 2008-05-30 10:39PM | 0 recs
Why did you

have to throw his middle name in there? Comes across as kind of RW, you know?

by sricki 2008-05-30 10:40PM | 0 recs
That and he seems to have

two talking points, McGovern=Obama and Respect the Clinton's.

by Student Guy 2008-05-30 10:45PM | 0 recs
The second talking point

doesn't seem so bad, though. ;)

by sricki 2008-05-30 10:56PM | 0 recs
Fair point n/t

by shef 2008-05-30 10:57PM | 0 recs
Very true

but any criticism of them is verboten with him, BTW I spammed 777denny's site pretty good.

by Student Guy 2008-05-30 11:13PM | 0 recs
You guys are always

talking about that site. How do you know it's Chitowndenny's? Did he crosspost something over there?

Link to fun spamming?

by sricki 2008-05-30 11:17PM | 0 recs
Obama has never lost a 25 point lead

but Hillary has.

The polls say that Hillary doesn't know how to hold a lead, no matter how big it is.

The polls say that Obama knows how to close the gap in the polls, build a lead in the polls, and hold a lead.

by Sam Wise Gingy 2008-05-30 11:29PM | 0 recs
Diamond Jay,

You troll rated this?  That's BS.  They look like facts to me.  Are you allergic?

by haremoor 2008-05-31 08:02AM | 0 recs
Tip Jar

by shef 2008-05-30 10:30PM | 0 recs
Hey nice blog
I checked out your blog, it's sweet.
BTW great diary.
by Student Guy 2008-05-30 10:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

Wow, so we have to spell out Hussein, like some slur and compare our persumptive candidate with the inept Kerry campaign.

The ability of the current HILLARY Clinton campaign to win a general election is not at all tied to the previous successed of the BILL Clinton campaign. They have two TOTALLY different campaign staffs that have the ultimate say in how a campaign will react to certain events.

Obama is still leading, and that is with the currently low rate of 70-75% of Democratic voters. When committed Clinton supporters go through the grieving process after she finally concedes, you will see a large bounce for Obama as our Democratic voters come home.

by irish09 2008-05-30 10:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

Wow, so we have to spell out Hussein, like some slur and compare our persumptive candidate with the inept Kerry campaign.

The ability of the current HILLARY Clinton campaign to win a general election is not at all tied to the previous successed of the BILL Clinton campaign. They have two TOTALLY different campaign staffs that have the ultimate say in how a campaign will react to certain events.

Exactly.

by shef 2008-05-30 10:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

For the record, those numbers in the 70%'s are standard fare during a general election.

In recent political history, we usually max out around 78% or 80% of Democrats because of the still existing spillover effect from the Southern Democrats (who vote GOP in Presidential elections).

by BPK80 2008-05-30 11:14PM | 0 recs
More like 90%...

according to CNN Exit Polls from 2004.

by nklein 2008-05-31 12:25AM | 0 recs
Re: More like 90%...

I'm talking about the polls leading up to the election, not exit polls.  

by BPK80 2008-05-31 01:00AM | 0 recs
I don't understand how you reconcile...

these two statements:

In recent political history, we usually max out around 78% or 80% of Democrats because of the still existing spillover effect from the Southern Democrats (who vote GOP in Presidential elections).

and

I'm talking about the polls leading up to the election, not exit polls.  

What does it matter what polls leading up to the election say, when the commenter was remarking that Obama would not get just 70% of the Democratic electorate?  Moreover, you use the word vote when refering to Southern Democrats.  I think you should just admit that you're wrong here, because while I can't find it I'm sure that I saw preelection polls that had both Kerry and Bush winning between 85%-93% of their parties.

by nklein 2008-05-31 01:31AM | 0 recs
Re: I don't understand how you reconcile...

Pre-election polls have undecided voters, while exit polls do not.  Hopefully that helps to clarify your confusion.  

by BPK80 2008-05-31 03:22AM | 0 recs
Yes, those pre-election polls have undecideds...

but first you made the claim that there was such little loyalty in Democratic voters, because of Southern Democrats voting for Republicans.  You did not mention undecideds.  And either way, that is not true.  30% of the party does not abandon the nominee in either elections or pre-General Election polls.   Second, those undecideds are almost always independent voters.  Once a party makes a decision on a nominee, close to 85%-90% of the party's members supports that nominee.

by nklein 2008-05-31 11:10AM | 0 recs
Undecideds...

I made the claim that in polls preceding an election (2000, 2004) the Dems max out around 78% to 80% in party ID Dem votes.  The GOP numbers tend to be stronger, and the Dem candidate usually has an edge in Independents.  

"30% of the party does not abandon the nominee in either elections or pre-General Election polls."

30% is your hyperbole for my 22%.  In general election polls, among Dems, one can expect to see support for the nominee in the upper 70's, another 10-12% Undecided, and approx. 10% for the GOP candidate.    

"close to 85%-90% of the party's members supports that nominee."

On election day, perhaps.  

by BPK80 2008-05-31 02:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

Just a few things to throw out there.

- At this point Bill Clinton was THIRD behind Bush and Perot.

- A snap shot in polls this early means next to nothing

- Clinton has benefited from the very open and direct "Limbaugh Bump" and others in the GOP working to prop her up

- Obama has been campaigning against Clinton AND McCain for quite some time. 2 vs 1. Throw Bill in the mix and that's 3 vs 1.

- McCain does little to excite Republicans. Clinton is a lightning rod that will stimulate his base FOR him.

- Obama has run a much more competent campaign on all fronts, including fund raising. He has defied almost all odds against (what should have been) a far superior opponent.  

by USArmyParatrooper 2008-05-30 10:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

Obama won the Travis Childers (D) / Greg Davis (R) contest in Mississippi.

The Republicans didn't tie Childers to Clinton they tied him to Obama and Childers won in a district that Democrats shouldn't of had a chance in.

How is that for electability and coat tails?

by Sam Wise Gingy 2008-05-30 11:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

Childers had to distance himself from Barack Obama.  He was on the defense denying his endorsement and saying "this election is about Mississippi; it has nothing to do with a Senator from Illinois."  

That said, your larger point remains.  Wright/Obama was not as effective as a means of attacking downticket legislators.  

by BPK80 2008-05-30 11:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

hey... that's what I was going to say :)

by shef 2008-05-31 02:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

The smartest top of ticket candidates figure out what kind of coat tails help downticket, even if that is pretending the coat tails are not there and they don't know the downticket exists and the downticket doesn't know them, and acting accordingly. Figuring out what the topticket needs to do to help downticket is the essence of party loyalty and concern.

by Christy1947 2008-05-31 04:51AM | 0 recs
I think Travis Childers won that election for...

himself, but the high black turnout due to the GOP's attempt to link Childers and Obama didn't hurt.  

by nklein 2008-05-31 12:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

Right on! Childers had nothing to do with it, it was Obama. He also won the Celtics game tonight and knocked both Williams sisters out of the French open.

by STUBALL 2008-05-31 12:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

Obama had more to do with the Childers win than Hillary did.

by Sam Wise Gingy 2008-05-31 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Electability

i'm on vacation so all i got is this:

barack "hussein" obama  IS more electable than hillary "i voted for the iraq war, and kyl / lieberman" clinton

see what i'm sayin (diamondjay) ?

by citizendave 2008-05-31 02:57AM | 0 recs

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