Killing Clinton’s Last Argument

At this stage of the game, Hillary Clinton has only two real arguments left. One is that she is the popular vote leader; an argument that in and of itself is built upon so much dishonesty that you can actually feel your integrity rotting away as you entertain it. The other is this idea that Clinton will, based upon polls and primary performance, do better against McCain in the general election.

Electability, I admit, is a very valid argument in selecting a nominee, but Clinton’s argument is extremely disingenuous and relies upon some blatantly ridiculous assumptions. Proving this point perhaps more than anything else is a six month projection posted by both Ben Smith and Andrew Sullivan from 2004.

According to that electoral map, had the race between Bush and Kerry remained static through 2004, Kerry would have cleaned the floor with Bush, winning 327 electoral votes to Bush’s 211.

Considering George W. Bush is still our president, I’m going to guess that that prediction didn’t exactly come off as intended.

But, you may ask, how could Kerry blow such an amazing lead? As James Joyner rightfully points out, “Obviously, a lot can change between now and Election Day. Like, oh, a campaign.” Indeed, if we were to have selected our Democratic nominee based not upon the performance of the candidates in the primaries and caucuses, but instead upon polling from six months out, Hillary Clinton would EASILY be the nominee.

I’m sure that there’s more than a part of her that wishes that this is how we select our nominees.

Further, this is part of what’s wrong with seating Michigan and Florida as is. Polls are, for the most part, snapshots in time. What happened in Michigan and Florida, though, is that when both candidates pledged not to campaign in those states, the polling went from just showing snapshots of a dynamic system to  reflecting a still frame of a static picture. In other words, the candidates weren’t given the opportunity to influence overall popular support.

Which is what campaigning is about, after all. Sure, if Obama wasn’t allowed to campaign, ever, then of course Clinton would be the stronger candidate, but polling trends have shown rather objectively that Obama is a significantly better campaigner considering that in nearly every state that he won, he did so in the face of what began as a significant deficit in Clinton’s favor.

In the National Journal, Mark Blumenthal covers this and more. Here, Blumenthal makes several points, not the least of which being that for all of the strengths that Clinton claims to possess over Obama for the general election, Obama has his own swing state advantages that Clinton lacks. While Clinton comes up with a slight advantage, the differing strengths largely cancel out.

But let’s not forget that it is plain silly to assume that there is any connection between primary performance and general election performance, which is a crux of the Clinton argument. There’s simply no parallel.

I’m not just blowing smoke here, either; it’s a totally different game, as difficult as it may be for many Clinton supporters and the Clinton campaign itself to understand. You have a broader batch of voters, different rules, a different opponent, and you are playing on ideologically different turf. I don’t get what is so hard to understand about this.

But there you have it, the entire Clinton argument is little more than smoke and mirrors, a doomsday warning that may never come. It is based on data that is being taken right now and doesn’t make any allowance for shifts in public opinion one way or another.

But public opinion is shifting as the Gallup Daily Tracker is showing. Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that Clinton has dropped significantly in the Democratic race and look at the McCain match ups where as of today Obama leads McCain by one point, and Clinton leads by two points.

The disingenuous Clintonian interpretation would obviously be that Clinton is doing better than Obama, but that would ignore trending. A slightly less disingenuous interpretation is that Obama is trending better than Clinton as he is going up and she is going down, and thus, Obama is the stronger candidate to put up against McCain.

The intellectually honest interpretation, though, is that they are both within the margin of error, and there is a full SIX MONTHS between now and November during which a great deal can happen.

It’s fine, and expected, to say that you are a stronger candidate against the Republican nominee than your opponent. But arguments such as those should be based on how you plan on campaigning against the Republican, what’s your strategy, and how do you plan on providing a beneficial contrast? Those could provide some potentially strong arguments.

Basing everything upon polling data that is fleeting and essentially useless, however, itself lacks strength.

(edited by DrGail)

18 Responses to “Killing Clinton’s Last Argument”

  1. Sarah Mewsky says:

    The truth is, Hillary is at a point of no return. She will not accept defeat. She wants to be on the presidential ballot. She will not, now or ever support Barack Obama. The Clintons feel like Hillary deserves the presidency. It is her right. They MUST have the presidency when they say. And then, along comes some orator and convinces voters otherwise. When it all comes to pass and she is shown her way out of the current nomination exercise, her chance in 2012 lies on ensuring Obama’s defeat. In public she will most probably campaign for Obama, but she will have her people working with the MCain campaign, digging up and destroying Obama. Obama’s defeat gives her a chance to claim her right to the presidency in 2012. In Hillary’s world, everything is first and foremost about her. She will never get it, that someone or ANYONE else dares even imagine of challenging a Clinton for the presidency. In her world, she has to be president for 8 years, to be succeeded by her daughter Chelsea for another 8 years…. how dare Americans think otherwise!!!!!

    Therefore, to hell with rules. If they can’t be changed to favor Hillary, then a way must be found to make sure it is her name on the nomination certificate! We want a new rule where the popular vote winner gets the nomination OR a rule that stipulates that one must be called Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the Democratic Party nominee in 2008!

    Hillary 08

  2. caryn says:

    This is the first article I have read that makes sense. Most seem to dwell on the fuzzy math and selfish reasoning of the Clintons. In my opinion, I think Hillary is just playing this out strictly for donations to her campaign. Being millions in debt, owing to her vendors and her staff, she certainly does not want to financially come out in the hole. Every speech she gives ends with DONATE TO HILLARY CLINTON.COM. It seems very obvious to me, she is playing her supporters big time.

  3. dwmulenex says:

    One of the successes of Clinton since Ohio is her diversion of the primary from the important question of who we want for President to the less important question of electability, based on polls, microdemographics, prior year electoral maps, and faulty characterizations of popular vote. Gone is the unrefuted reality of the Tuzla sniper girl with poison flowers and a poetic death threat, the phony claims about Northern Ireland, the waffling on the Iraq vote, and the contradictions on NAFTA support, which amount to “in my heart,i was against it, despite a decade of publc staements for it. ” Were she the most electable candidate in the world, which this commentary challenges, I’d still be against her because I trust neither her judgment or that lack of rock bottom honesty which ocassionally admits a flat-out mistake. I’ve no illusion that Obama or McCain is less flawed as a person, but I see flashes of recognition in both candidates that it is human to err. Mrs. Clinton sees herself more in the forgiving business, methinks. But of that sort of leader than can be only one, and it’s not The Highlander or Hillary Clinton. Great matter for a John Adams opera, though.

  4. Jay Biggs says:

    100% agree. Why is polling 5-6 months before an event supposed to be a basis for anything? When are such polls ever right in presidential contests held many months later? Ask President Dukakis.

    Remember what Hillary said in October 2007?:

    “I pay absolutely no attention to what any poll says or what any pundit on TV says.”

    Now general election polls in May are supposed to determine the party’s nominee? Why even have the primaries?

    It’s an almost defiantly breathtaking assault on logic and history.

  5. m says:

    This article is short on facts and long on rhetoric. Let’s first address the popular vote argument. Take a look at If you look at the vote tally including FL and the caucus states, but not including Michigan, you will see that Clinton trails by only 274,000. The Florida primary had high turnout and ALL the candidates listed. And since, it was almost a month after Iowa and New Hampshire, both candidates were household names by then. After June 3, it is likely that the only way Obama beats Clinton on the popular vote is by EXCLUDING both Michigan AND Florida.

    As for electability, take a gander at ; it is a blog run by an Obama supporter that has been fairly good at predicting election results. Clinton cleans McCain’s clock; Obama actually loses.

    Your parallel to Kerry fails for a number of reasons. Mainly, the Obama and Clinton campaign have campaigned in ALL states except MI and FL. Kerry wound up the nomination well before that. So while Obama and Clinton have been duking it out and getting their message out everywhere, Kerry didn’t have that burden. So the polls were a static look at a static campaign in 2004. Here, people have a much clearer idea of where Obama and Clinton stand.

    As for trending, Clinton has been the one trending upwards for months.

    Anyway, there are a ton of other issues with this post. I am sad that RealClearPolitics linked to your post as a “best of the blogs” post. You are obviously a reactionary Clinton hater who cannot see that Clinton has a legitimate claim to being the nominee. Now whether she gets the nomination, that’s a different story.


  6. Bob says:

    The only way that the popular vote has any relevance whatsoever in this process is as an argument to superdelegates on electability. So figure it out. Giving Hillary 55% of the Michigan vote and Obama 0% is in no way reflective of electability in the fall. Forget fairness. And since Puerto Rico does not vote in the general election, its primary results also don’t tell you anything whatsoever about electability in the fall. Most superdelegates are simply not that stupid. Most of them are politicians themselves.

    On a side note, I must agree that in my opinion you have to be brain-dead to contribute money to a campaign in debt for over 20 million that owes over 10 million to the candidate that is losing and most of the rest to the political consultant that engineered the loss.

  7. Hold_That_Tiger says:

    You are obviously a reactionary Clinton hater who cannot see that Clinton has a legitimate claim to being the nominee. Now whether she gets the nomination, that’s a different story.
    “reactionary Clinton hater” or realist? You seem to forget Clinton’s high negatives among the general electorate….that must be figured into any general election with her at the top of the ticket. Also, there are Obama supporters who will NOT vote for her (a small percentage, IMO, but a percentage nonetheless, not to mention that she may not be able to regain the overall Black Vote, albeit a small, but important voting block.) I personally am offended in the way she has conducted her campaign, the palpable sense of entitlement, the trading on her marquee name which made her campaign seem lazy and complacent at first (hence her losses to a rookie in the caucus, etc.), then the transformation of Hillary into the champion of the white working class, and the subsequent panders such as her absurd “gas tax holiday” proposal….which brings us to the present where her campaign , running out of time, is now reduced to running on the fumes of trying to bend the rules shamelessly to her advantage, gender superiority (in the minds of her female followers) and charges of endemic sexism as somehow compromising her election despite her strong “close but no cigar”, showing.

  8. GrandpaMike says:

    In basketball the team taking the most shots is no more recognized as winning to an opposing team scoring more points – than is a football team that gains more yardage – but scores fewer points than their opponent. The DNC’s presidential nomination game is decided by total delegates. Additionally, there is NO way to determine the total popular vote for this nomination – since some state contests were decided by the caucass process.

    DNC rules prohibited candidates from campaigning in Florida and Michigan because these states violated DNC rules. Well in advance of moving up the date of their primary elections both states and all candidates were advised of this – and were warned of the consequences if they moved up their election date. If the candidates, including Senator Clinton, didn’t agree with her party’s rules – they shouldn’t have signed the DNC’s agreements concerning Michigan and Florida. I say that it’s too late to change the rules of any contest in the final ten seconds of play. Does this mean that the voters in Florida and Michigan are being disenfranchised? Frankly yes. But then if these states had complied with the rules of their party this wouldn’t even be an issue.

  9. fred gill says:

    I like the comment about electability being secondary to whom we should want as president. So if they’re both the same – in this case, Hillary – that settles the question, doesn’t it?

    Like many centrist Dems I have two concerns. One is that Obama, too lefty and too untested, won’t win in November. The other is that he will. I keep coming back to the question of why we’re nominating him and why we’ve been so breathlessly told that we must nominate him. What would he bring to the presidency? A pretty face? A clever autobiography? An angsty (and apparently unresolved) search for racial identity? Are these suddenly the primary qualifications for being CEO of the world’s most powerful country? Do they make up for such a thin resume devoid of any major accomplishments?

    “…’til human voices wake us, and we drown.”

  10. c kavanagh says:

    The electability argument is a sham and most people know it. For the past few months the Obama campaign has taken anything and everything that both the Clintons and the GOP have thrown at him and held his own fairly well. The Obama camp has treated the Clintons with kid gloves in comparison as they don’t want to alienate her supporters. The GOP has also been careful to avoid any attacks against Hillary in the hopes of prolonging the race and getting the nominee that they want which is Hillary though a battered Obama is far better than an unblemished Obama. The fact is that the Repubs are salivating at the idea of getting Hillary into the ring for the general. They have file cabinets full of stuff to use against her and with Hillary as the nominee they eliminate the one thing that they know that they can’t touch Obama on and that is that they’re guy voted to authorize the Iraq war and Obama didn’t. With Hillary as the nominee that piece of moral high ground is out the window. Any Hillary supporters who want to make the electability argument need to be reminded of a few things that Obama and his camp have given her a free pass on.

    They never brought up Marc Rich, but could have.

    They never smeared Hillary with lies about Vince Foster but could have.

    They never brought up the millions of dollars in speaking fees that Bill Clinton has earned from Saudi Arabia, but could have.

    They never brought up Whitewater, but could have.

    They never brought up Monica Lewinsky, but could have.

    They never brought up Gennifer Flowers, but could have.

    They never brought up Kathleen Willey, but could have.

    They never brought up Hillary’s potential ethics problems from the early 1970s while in Washington as a lawyer, but could have.

    They never brought up Juanita Broderick, but could have.

    They never brought up Hugh Rodham but could have.

    They never brought up impeachment but could have.

    They never brought up Sandy Berger and the files in his socks but could have.

    They never brought up the instance in which, as a young lawyer, Hillary Clinton attacked the credibility of an alleged 12 year old rape victim beyond an ethical standard. But they could have.

    They never brought up the fact that Democrats saw a 30% decline (from 30 governorships to 21) in the number of state houses controlled from the time the Clinton’s came to power to the time they left office. But they could have.

    They never brought up the Canadaian tycoon Frank Giustra and his ties to the Clintons but could have.

    They never brought up the Rose Law Firm, but could have.

    They never brought up Somalia but could have.

    They never brought up the fact that when the Clintons came to power the Democrats controlled the Senate but that changed just two years later. But they could have.

    They never brought up Webb Hubbell but could have.

    They never brought up Doug Coe but could have.

    They never brought up Bill Clinton’s foreign business dealings but could have.

    They never brought up Tyson chicken but could have.

    He could have really trounced on Hillary’s RFK June remarks but didn’t. Instead he chose to give her the benefit of the doubt.

    They never complained when the Clintons had over 100 party insider delegates endorse them before a single vote was cast in either Iowa or New Hampshire. But they could have.

    They never made a big deal out of Norman Hsu and tried to unfairly tie him to HIllary the way the Clinton campaign played guilt by association with Tony Rezko. But they could have.

    They never made a big deal about Peter Paul and his ties to Hillary. But they could have.

    They never expressed concern over Hillary’s problem in getting the votes of “hard-working black Americans.”

    They never flip-flopped on the issue of the Michigan and Florida delegates to try to manipulate the issue to their political advantage, or tried to unfairly blame Hillary for the DNC’s ruling on the state’s delegates.

    They never praised John McCain while at the same time criticizing Hillary Clinton on an issue.

    They never called the Republicans more “progressive” than the Democrats.

    They never accused the media of a “cover up” against Clinton.

    They never brought up that Hillary failed the DC Bar Exam. But could have.

    They never brought up Ron Burkle but could have.

    Do you think the Republicans will be so courteous in a general? Right now Obama is taking it from both sides and holding his own. Hillary would be decimated in a General Election once the repubs open fire on her.

  11. Jon says:

    Neither Obama or Clinton will win enough pledged delegates to clinch the nomination. So both campaigns have to convince enough superdelegates to support them. Clinton’s argument will be, correctly, that more democrats voted for her (excluding Michigan, but including Florida – again as it should be, since both were on the ballot) and that poll-upon-poll shows that she the stronger candidate in a general electio (she’s stronger amongst blue collar workers who are far more likely to vote McCain than voters in Obama’s coalition). Superdelegates must make up their minds as to the merits of that argument. But what will Obama’s argument be? That somehow, because of the screwy, flawed way the democrats award delegates, he won more delegates than clinton DESPITE receiving less votes than her? Give me a break! If the dems nominate Obama, it’s another four years of a GOP White House.

  12. caryn says:

    To C. Kavanaugh – EXCELLENT – YOU KNOW YOUR STUFF!!!! There is soooo much regarding the Clintons that I find it unbelievable that all of what you said has not been exposed to the general public. I will add – Susan Coleman from ARK, another gal connected with Bill Clinton, found dead and was 7 months pregnant in the ’70’s. They said it was a suicide but was found with a gunshot in the back of her head. The shabby way they left ARK, govenors mansion and the WH. Taking all the W”s off the computers, not to say anything of the other stuff they took. The Clinton Library and all the donations, especially this year, that they won’t make public. Anyway, thank you for your comments.

  13. Hold_That_Tiger says:

    “One is that Obama, too lefty”

    I frequently see this assertion on forums or blogs, usually tossed off casually, and never backed up with examples or explanation of exactly how Obama is more left than say, Clinton. Those who bother to read Obama’s proposals and compare them with Mrs Clinton’s will see that there is little difference between them on their core issues: getting more Americans covered by offering affordable Health Care Insurance (the difference actually puts Obama’s plan in a more “conservative” light by giving Adults the choice to opt out of the plan, Mrs Clinton makes it mandatory with a fine for those who don’t opt in), Obama wants to give tax breaks to the middle-class, and like Clinton, he would let the Bush tax cuts to the 1-2% Americans in the top tax bracket expire, etc. In fact, during the time Obama and Clinton have served in the Senate their votes matched in all but 2 cases, one of which involved Tort Reform (an issue beloved by Conservatives); Obama voted yes, Clinton, No. Another area of difference of course, is the War: although he wasn’t in the Senate for the Vote, Obama made his opposition public, while Mrs Clinton, as we know, Voted Yes, which calls into question HER judgement, IMO.

  14. I will post something that speaks to this come Monday morning, Tiger.

  15. Hold_That_Tiger says:

    Kyle, I am look forward to reading your opinion on the Obama as far “lefty” narrative with great interest since it is a charge that is frequently leveled at him, but never backed up with proof. Frankly after doing much research on Obama before I decided that he would get my vote, my conclusion is that Obama is a classic Progressive who is slightly left of center.

  16. Actually, I don’t intend on expressing a whole lot of opinion.

    Just showing two pretty pictures, and hopefully being done with the whole matter.

  17. Gladys says:

    Kyle, I happy I followed a link from the New York blogspot and found your comments from left field. HRC and Bill have disappointed me and yes I did forget some of their questionable acts while in public office. The dead pregnant girl that’s new and I’ll be researching that one very soon.

    The next President of the USA will be a mixed race man from the southside of Chicago, not Black or White but American. A person not raised by parents with Post Slavery Syndrome, not beaten in childhood so he’ll know ‘how to act’, not told to be silent and ‘not get smart’. A person who faces the world with a Black face who is not downtrodden and ashamed. A person who has proven he is as smart as any person in America or the World. A person who knows how to play by the rules and win. A person who knows the rules, can teach the rules and edit the rule book.

  18. M3Man says:

    A super post, but if you leave out all the sins of Bill and the Bimbos, you still have the ‘Hillary care closed door fiasco’, sniper fire, Rose law firm billing records, boosting McCain on the campaign trail, ‘who filled the clinton bank accounts’ questions, 50% negative ratings, her brothers begging for pardons, and the list goes on. This is all fair game, and the Repugs have been writing the ads for 6 years.

    Not only did Obama give Hillary a total pass on all of this, so did the entire right wing. Instead, talk radio was a 24-7 Obama Bash fest. That certainly had a lot to do with her strength in Appalachia, where Rush and Fox run strong. If at any point the right had decided it would rather run against Hillary, we’d know. But as of today its still anti Obama all the time.

    Older women may be mad. (Weren’t they called security moms last time when those terror alerts scared them into backing Bush?) Some may vote against their best interest and back pro-life McCain, but who knows how many. If Hill is the nominee, Blacks, who are actually reliable Dems, will be highly pissed. If they stay home, a lot of close House, Senate and Gov races could tip Red. Conversely, Super D’s know Obama has the ability to draw millions of new voters and boost African American turnout dramatically. And since redistricting is gerrymandered based on low black turnout, boosting it puts dozens of congressional races in play.

    If polls in June meant anything, Presidents Dukakis and Kerry would have saved America a lot of grief. Hillary’s arguments are very much like Rush Limbaugh’s…built on a house of cards and a network of half truths. If a smart person challenges them, they just don’t hold up

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