Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Clinton Back From the Dead

The news of her death greatly exaggerated, Senator Hillary Clinton, who little more than twenty-four hours ago had been written off and buried by many after a sharp defeat in the Iowa Caucus, was declared the Democratic winner of the New Hampshire primary last night, with all precincts reporting in. The news surprised everyone after polls predicted another victory for Senator Barack Obama following his win in Iowa.

Indeed, after Iowa, it was as if many on the left had suddenly discovered a deep emotional love for Obama, while finally admitting repressed uncertainties for Clinton. Many on the left seemed relieved, if not overjoyed that Clinton's campaign was collapsing so that they could finally come out and declare their love for Obama. That was, of course, yesterday, when crap like this was being written in the Los Angeles Times:

"Memo to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: We think you're aces. Really. And we love your husband. But we're running off with Sen. Barack Obama. Hope you understand. It's all about being part of history. We'll do lunch after the inauguration."

Cute.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Clinton fan. The last thing I want to see is a continuation of Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clin..... dynasty. But come on. Let's get real. Only Hollywood could produce this kind of unashamed capriciousness about something so vital. I don't mean to take some of the fun out of things but this could be one of the most important elections in history and the selection of candidates gets reduced, seriously, to some kind of teen aged crush.

With that on one hand, I'm actually glad Clinton won. Now people can get back to steeling their resolve, stifling their fears about Clinton's un-electability, burying their best interests, and get behind her where they belong. But the odd thing is that all those who jumped ship on Hillary did so for the right reasons. The concepts they articulated after Obama's win in Iowa were correct. I just want to know why they weren't running with it earlier? And will it vanish again now after New Hampshire? Obama is the more likable, more charismatic candidate. He will draw in more independent votes, which are essential for a Democratic victory in 2008.

Let's boil the entire electorate down to 100 people. Let's say 35 of those people are hard-core Republicans, they will vote for any Republican no matter who gets the nomination. Then let's say 30 are hard-core liberals, they will vote for any Democrat who runs. That leaves 35 people in the middle who swing the election. The Republicans usually have to get fewer swing votes than the Democrats to win. Which of the two candidates, Obama or Clinton, do you think will pull in more undecided voters for the Democrats?

Let's try this another way. In the 2004 national election there were 16 states that were closely divided between Republican and Democratic. But some of these states are more important than others. Battleground states like Florida, with 27 electoral votes, are very important to secure in the national election, as are other close states like Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20) and Michigan (17). So the question is not which candidate do the Democrats like the best. But which candidate does the entire state like the best? Or, to put it another way, which candidate will bring in the most independent or swing voters?

Hillary polls very strongly because, ideally, she is the strongest Democratic candidate. On paper, between her and Obama, she would probably be the better president. Unfortunately this doesn't matter at all. It's not about who is ideally the best candidate, but who, at the end of the day, is the most electable. Voters from the middle don't care which Democratic candidate has been toeing the party line the longest. They are looking for the candidate who speaks to them. And in this election I imagine that person is probably Senator Barack Obama. I only wish more Democrats would now stick with the impulse that was fueled by Obama's win in Iowa. They were on the right track.

My friends on the right think it will be very hard for the Democrats to blow the 2008 election. But everyone I know on the left is waiting for their party to once again implode. And if they think they can win without the middle vote they surely will lose. Going with the less charismatic candidate is a good way to do that. I'm not saying any of this is fair or reasonable but what does love have to do with it anyway? Those people who couldn't wait to get behind Obama after Iowa, and who no doubt are now rushing back to Clinton after New Hampsire, should think clearly about which of the two has the best chance of winning. It's about who can sway the person in the middle, not which one rubs them the right way.

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