Electability Arguments

Chris Cillizza takes an in depth look at the electability arguments put forth by both campaigns at this point, though he does so without weighing in much on the veracity or validity of each claim.  The short version is simply that Clinton is claiming she knows how to fight the Republican Attack Machine while Obama doesn’t, and that she can stand up to John McCain on National Security while Obama can’t.  On the other side, the core behind the Obama camp’s claims rests firmly in the analysis of polling reports.

To be fair, most talk about electability at this stage is conjecture; one of the reasons this contest is so tightly matched is not only based upon ideological similarities, but also because it is particularly difficult to ascertain which of the two candidates truly is the more electable.  Still, I find problems with the arguments coming from both camps.

There’s some fire to the smoke the Obama campaign is throwing up when it comes to the polls, and I’ve written about it several times, even before they were talking about it.  It’s true, Obama has consistently performed better in hypothetical general election match ups from the very beginning.  It does provide a half way decent argument, but there are also some holes in that argument as well.

For one, there is the “any democrat” concept that should be addressed.  That’s to say, in polling you will have a vast disparity between asking the question, “Who would you be more likely to vote for; John McCain or Hillary Clinton?” and “Who would you be more likely to vote for; John McCain, or any Democrat?”

In this scenario, “any Democrat” is likely to receive the stronger response than Hillary Clinton because the former is anonymous.  Hillary Clinton has broad name recognition and that name recognition comes pre-stocked with personal feelings and emotions and opinions.  Americans know who Hillary Clinton is and are given the opportunity of weighing her pros and cons.  By contrast, the anonymous choice is not a real person, and therefore the question becomes more of a referendum upon the other name in the question.  People taking the poll will naturally transfer idealized qualities on the anonymous candidate and compare those to a real candidate which becomes a rather unfair contest.

I mention this because Barack Obama does not have nearly the name recognition that Hillary Clinton does, and therefore there is likely to be some of this phenomenon going on in polling.  As the race continues to progress, that phenomenon will decrease, of course, but without knowing how many people are idealizing Obama as an anonymous candidate, it is difficult to tell how significant his hypothetical match up polling numbers would hold through to November.

The other flaw in the Obama camp’s methodology here is that polls change, and no one in their right mind would lend much credence to polling numbers put forth in February when the actual vote doesn’t take place until November.  Two months ago, Hillary was beating Obama just about everywhere except Iowa by substantial margins, now they’re neck and neck with momentum continuing to push in Obama’s direction.  You just can’t trust them this far out.

Still, the Clinton arguments to me seem more disingenuous.  For instance, there’s the claim that Hillary has succeeded in fighting the Republican Attack Machine.  Now, it’s true that she has done battle on many occasions with said machine, however there is little convincing evidence that she’s been proven victorious on the field of battle.  Despite the claimes of 35 years of experience, it must be remembered that Hillary Clinton has won exactly two elections, both of them in New York, the most stable liberal stronghold in America.  If she had beat out the RAM in Illinois or Arkansas, or, for that matter, anywhere else in the South, I would give her credit on that claim.  However, it’s absolutely ludicrous to win an election in New York and think you’ve won a decisive battle against dirty Republican tricks.

Equally ludicrous is the claim that she has been vetted thoroughly enough while at the same time we still await White House documents during her time as First Lady to verify her claims that her time in the White House could be characterized as positive experience.  Neither candidate has been fully vetted, nor has McCain, or anyone else running for the White House.  We all have secrets and it’s reasonable to assume that they’re simply not all going to come out.  What is important to note here, though, is that one thing we do know about the Clintons is that they have a pattern of hiding and covering up and maneuvering any way they can to prevent the dirt coming up to bury them.  By contrast, one of the most damaging items a politician can have against them, drug use, was not only not hidden by the Obama campaign, but was written about in a book ten years ago.

He used what would be a crushing revelation in the heat of a dirty campaign as a positive, turning his past into a cautionary tale for young people while at the same time sending a clear statement that you can make mistakes and still go on to clean yourself up and do great things.

The second prong to Hillary’s attack is not fully clarified.  She claims that she would be able to stand up to John McCain on the issue of National Security.  This befuddles me.  There are only two ways to go toe to toe on McCain; out hawk and military him which is simply impossible, or you present the polar opposite of him–a responsible approach to foreign policy that does not leap immediately to war, that only uses war as a last result to protect our shores, and employs in a broader form of diplomacy.  Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton is losing based upon national security and this is why; she doesn’t have the creds to pose as a viable opposite to McCain’s foreign policy.  She voted for the Iraq war, she voted for the Iran proposal, and she has neoconservatives working as FP advisors.  The mistake here is that Hillary is trying to make the claim that has served Democrats so poorly the last couple of election cycles in that she is trying to be a Republican Lite to one of the most hardcore of Republicans.

That’s just not going to work.


Thanks to The Political Cat for linking in!

2 Responses to “Electability Arguments”

  1. u hoodlum LOL , u stole my thunder…But im gonna put a ost up on a same line of thought on Wenesday (the day of m granny’s funeral). and u right she cant be trusted, she had 8 yrs to take care of health care when she was the czarette under hubby, why should i belive her now

  2. First, I read about your grandmother’s funeral, and I wanted to just, you know, express my deepest condolences on that. I’m also pretty glad that you got back on the horse and kept writing after that. I know I don’t comment much, but you have become one of a very few number that I actually make it a habit to read almost every day.

    Also, sorry for stealing your thunder, but you know, this whole electability argument is pretty interesting to me. Unlike a lot of people who think it’s silly, I think it’s an incredibly important argument to have, but that doesn’t mean you get to delve into the realm of absurdity with it.

    I can’t knock Obama much because the poll parsing has been one of the guidelines that I have used up until now, but it’s still not fair to take what the polls say now as unchallenged scripture.

    Still, that argument is far superior to the whole, “I took on the Republicans” meme, which is true to its most technical limits, but is essentially a lie of omission for I’ve never heard her say outright that she’s actually won that particular battle, which, as I pointed out in the post, she hasn’t.

    As for what you’re talking about, you’re exactly right. She touts her health care battles as first lady as a significant reason to vote for her, but when we look at the back room deals, and her attempt to force her plan down people’s throats, what we see is that she sank universal healthcare the first time she touched it. She then in many ways disappeared off the radar as far as being a high powered first lady is concerned, and didn’t regain that prominence until Monica gate when she became the champion of the VRWC meme.

    Again, she turned out to be pretty wrong there as we all now know.

    She speaks often of how her time in the White House makes her uniquely qualified to be the next inhabitant of the Oval Office, but what we really see, without looking at the countless documents still under lock and key, is that her tenure as first lady could be characterized as tragically wrong missteps… missteps, might I add, that she has yet to successfully prove she has learned from.

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