Friday, May 23, 2008

Hillary's Electablishness

Matthew Yglesias makes some great points about the Hillary electability campaign. He starts with a Taylor Marsh quote about which more anon, then takes the argument apart:

    But it's quite true -- and indeed quite striking -- that the Clinton campaign has now shifted to a pretty single-minded focus on electability. The reason, of course, is that they know Obama will win a majority of delegates and they think the electability argument is most appealing to Democrats. The trouble is that the electability argument they really need is an absolutely electability argument which holds that it's almost inconceivable that Obama will beat McCain in November. That, however, isn't at all plausible and I was on a call yesterday where Howard Wolfson was at some pains to clarify that he wasn't making that argument.

    Instead, she's leaning on the relative electability argument which holds that she's simply more likely to beat McCain. This is much more plausible as an argument. But unfortunately, it's also much less persuasive. Nobody ever really wants to say that they're backing the less electable horse in a nominating contest, but it's also true that nobody ever really wants to say they're passing up a superior candidate in favor of a more electable one. Thus, by convenient coincidence, in essentially every hotly contested primary fight, the people who think Candidate A would be better on the merits also deem Candidate A more electable.
In the spate of map projections all over the web, Obama's performance and Hillary's performance is within a few points in most states. For example, the Karl Rove maps, which as Politico points out are methodologically iffy, show the two within three or four points in each of the battleground states. On other maps or other polls, Obama does as well or better than Clinton. And that's without factoring in Obama's healthy campaign jack or the effect of making McCain compete in Southern states. Anyone who asserts at this remove that Hillary can absolutely beat McCain or that Obama absolutely can't is just talking junk. The available evidence says at best Hillary may be marginally more electable than Obama.

When you mix in the necessity of overturning the popular result, the relative electability argument completely falls apart. Which brings us back to that Taylor Marsh quote. Normally, I'd rather dig out my eyes with a Phillips head than read any two words that person has strung together, but this quote makes a nice straw man womyn:
    Tumulty, like so many others, are ignoring Clinton's only goal, which is to make the case to SuperDs that she would be the best nominee against John McCain, the traditional media, as well as the Obama blogs, are missing one of the greatest political dramas ever to unfold, second only to the 2000 election.

    Clinton is campaigning on counting every single vote. But also that every Democratic delegate should be focused on who can win in November.
So first of all we are talking about "campaigning on counting every single vote" and campaigning on electability. That's more than only one goal. I know "math is hard," but counting to two shouldn't be. Seriously, the MI/FL debate has nothing to do with electability, and everything to do with generating the illusion that overturning Obama's popular mandate would be only mildly traumatic.

More importantly, Marsh, like so many others, is ignoring the fundamental contradiction between the two goals. The Marsh/Clinton position is to count every vote and inevitably ignore the 50%+ that break for Obama. Marsh and her ilk keep flogging this argument about enfranchisement, even as she advocates that the superdelegates should effectively disenfranchise me and everyone else who voted for Obama.

Do that, and those two to three percentage points will evaporate mighty quick.


Lynda J. Mulligan said...

This is probably one of the most boring blogs I've ever read. What is he saying?

Pho said...

This is probably one of the most lame and transparently spammish comments I've ever read. Are you really so obtuse that you can't comprehend a simple argument?