Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reagan Democrats, Building a Winning Coalition, and HRC's Electability Argument to Superdelegates

Obama's "problem" with Reagan (white, working-class) Democrats is discussed constantly on the cable networks and by political analysts who cannot see beyond the prism of the 1984 and 1988 elections. It is unfortunate that the chattering class is such an intellectual dead zone. Many of these people admit they would vote for Obama if they had to, and once HRC stops attacking him like he's the next Satan, the numbers who claim they'd vote for McCain will drop even more. What Obama lacks in indignant HRC supporters he will make up with increased independent support, and a map that doesn't rely on the Rust Belt. And so when we keep hearing these big state arguments, as Josh Marshall makes clear at TPM, it's a bunch of bullshit:

The dynamics are simply different between general elections and primaries. You have on the one hand patterns and preferences that Democratic voters show for different candidates in Democratic primaries. Then you have the separate question of whether these same voters will vote for the Democratic or the Republican nominee in the general. One is simply not predictive of the other. It could be -- if one candidate's voters simply refuse to vote for the other candidate. But who wins a primary doesn't tell you that.


Given the spottiness of state by state polls, for now it's best to watch the national popular vote polls, which show the two Democrats basically even in how they'd face McCain. But there are differences. They run better in different parts of the country. But the 'big state' argument is just malarkey, an artifact of the spin necessities of the post-Super Tuesday campaign.

This is important: Obama wins traditionally Democratic upper midwest states (Michigan, Wisconsin), and puts the Mountain West in play. HRC barely does the former, and fails utterly to do the latter.

Instead of asking the question (over and over): can Obama get HRC's white, blue-collar support come November, why don't we occasionally ask about Obama's supporters? Blacks are not going to be one bit happy to see their boy get cheated out of the nomination by superdelegates. I doubt nearly any would vote for McCain, but it is not impossible their turnout would be significantly depressed. The Clintons ought to be pure evil in the eyes of any black Democrat watching this thing closely: The Jesse Jackson comments, the constant injection of race (Obama's drug use, Ferraro, etc.) into the dialogue. I cannot imagine how a self-respecting black individual would be able to support HRC in the primary... and though many would hold their noses and vote in their best interest come November (for HRC), some might not vote at all, right? Let's consider CNN's PA exit polls:

82% of those participating in the primary would vote for HRC against McCain. A good, strong number. Some 10% would vote against her--31% of whom are HRC supporters (racist, angry Republicans who hate Obama, or people who think she's easier to beat?). The other 69% of that 10% are Obama people--folks angry at the prospect of the person they rightly know ought to be the Democratic nominee being denied the nomination. Not alarming.

Worse numbers for Obama: 15% vote for McCain, some 90% of whom are HRC supporters (only 10% are Obama supporters, meaning his voters appear to actually want him to be president more than HRC's).

Now, how many do not vote in both cases? It is, believe it or not, worse for Obama: 9% say they would not vote in Obama v. McCain and 98% of them are HRC supporters, while HRC vs. McCain has only 6% not voting (95% are Obama supporters).

So Obama cannot argue to superdelegates that his voters will abandon the Democrat, at least not in this case--they appear willing to vote, and willing to vote for her. That surprises me a bit--their bitterness is not nearly as childish or ridiculous as that of HRC's people. So superdelegates are stuck appeasing the children--HRC's angry, largely white (some racist) people are so indignant that this new guy who actually was always against the Iraq War is winning that they will either not vote or vote for McCain. That is Hillary's argument--my people aren't real Democrats, so let me go to the general, or else I'll turn them loose on you. Good thing Obama clobbers her against McCain among independents, and actually changes the map. He brings in new voters and I believe would be able to make up for those stay-at-home folks with new ones (esp. young ones--the contrast between angry, grumpy McCain and Obama would be perfect).

These indignant blue-collar people are not our problem--they're Hillary's. Rather than trying to create a coup via superdelegates, she ought to actually think of the party. If she loses this thing soon--I'm thinking it might be May 6--rather than seeding division and destroying the party all summer, she had better instruct her supporters to switch to Obama. And she better do it convincingly.

But even more important is that winning these damned Reagan Democrats is not necessarily enough to win a general. You can't win a general if you lose Wisconsin, which some polls have her doing, nor if you lose states like Washington, which some polls have her doing. She claims to be refighting the Kerry map and winning Ohio and Florida, but she loses 3 or 4 states along the way! A 20 point margin in Ohio is still just 20 electoral votes--so if Obama squeaks by in more states, that's what matters. Electoral college math matters, not "big states" that Obama can probably shore up come the fall (polls have him doing fine in PA, and moving on McCain in OH).

Superdelegates: please, see through the spin.

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