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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Clinton, Obama, Edwards: Who's Most Electable?

Iowa Caucus Analysis, Thursday, December 27th
With one week to go before January 3rd's Iowa Caucus, the contenders for the Democratic nomination are sticking to message. Hillary Clinton is the candidate that can take over on Day One. Barack Obama will bring the country together. John Edwards has experience fighting and defeating interest groups in Washington.

However, if you pay attention, there is one other key ingredient to all of their stump speeches. Each of the three claim that they have the best chance to go up against the Republican nominee in November. So let's examine that. Which of the three has the best chance against Republican candidate X on November 4th, 2008?

Hillary Clinton
Pros - For the bulk of 2007, Clinton has been the only candidate to temper her votes and words on the Iraq War, gearing up for a general election. She has positioned herself as a foreign policy moderate so as not to suffer the same fate as the last few northern Democrats who were not able to rally any support from the South or Midwest. She has appeared aggressive so as not to let the electorate think she is a dovish woman. She has consistently touted her experience in foreign policy, claiming to be the most ready candidate of the top tier.

Cons - Her argument as the most electable candidate can be questioned. As written by this blog on numerous occasions throughout the year, Hillary Clinton unites the right. Democrats will turn out to vote regardless of their nominee next November, however no Democratic candidate turns out the Republican vote like Clinton. Her infamous unfavorable statistics have held strong all year, while her favorables fluctuate in the forties. This was always the concern for Camp Clinton. Too many people have already made up their mind about her, and not enough of those people are on board for her to win a national election.

Barack Obama
Pros - Since bursting onto the national scene at the 2004 Democratic Convention, Obama has predicated his entire candidacy on overcoming partisanship. His messages of change and hope resonate with the Democratic base, but also have the ability to siphon off Republican votes from the GOP nominee. Most importantly, the independents are much more likely to be motivated by an Obama candidacy than a Clinton candidacy.

Cons - First, the superficial truth that is disappointing but existent. In the 2006 elections, every battleground Senate race went to the Democrats except Tennessee, the southern state where a black Democrat was running. Harold Ford Jr. told Tennessee everything they wanted to hear, but the state went Republican. Ford should have had a better chance than all of his Democratic colleagues who won. He was a good looking, bright, articulate candidate who spoke the language of Tennessee, and he was moderate, even conservative on many key issues important to the state. But he got beat by a white non-incumbent who allegedly played the race card in a political advertisement.

The Tennessee Senatorial election might be an omen for the Obama campaign. Look at Virginia in 2006, where Democratic challenger Jim Webb defeated incumbent Senator George Allen by a 1% margin. If Webb were black, however, could you not say with near certainty that Allen would have kept his seat? If Webb were black, wouldn't his 1% margin of victory have been in the other direction and possibly larger?

And how many states, in an election that will probably be as heated and close as the last two, might that play enough of a role that the state ends up in the red column, along with the balance of its electoral votes?

Moving away from aesthetics, an argument can be made that if McCain or Giuliani get nominated, Obama's chances take a hit. He'll have to go toe-to-toe against a candidate whose party owns foreign policy elections, deservedly or not. Edwards and Clinton, each with at least a full Senate term in their belts, probably fair better in such an election. A McCain-Obama showdown in a national security debate could be a blowout, especially after McCain's recent momentum push as the news from Iraq improves.

John Edwards
Pros - The last three Democrats in the White House were Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Lyndon Johnson, from Arkansas, Georgia, and Texas, respectively. All southern states. In fact, only two Democrats from north of the Mason-Dixon line (JFK and FDR) have been President in the last eighty-five years. Yesterday, Edwards made a direct reference to the recent Democratic presidents being southern when he said, "The last two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, both talk like me." And this is to say nothing of the fact that the last 42 people to be President have been white men, unlike the two candidates above Edwards on this list.

Cons - In a general electability argument, there are not many cons for John Edwards. Yes, he voted for the Iraq War, but so did lots of Democrats at a time when the majority of the people wanted action. Edwards has since admitted the vote is a mistake he will have to live with for the rest of this life, and you cannot ask much more of him in that regard, as he has been a vocal critic of the war for the last couple years. The biggest con for Edwards' electability case is that without winning the nomination, he has no shot at the general at all.

Verdict
Clinton is the least electable of the three, there is no doubt about that. Her assertion that she has the best chance to go up against a Republican is erroneous.

Obama can make the case that he is the most electable. The race factor occurs only in states that John Kerry did not carry anyway. Those are states that were red and would stay red with Obama on top of the 2008 Democratic ticket. All Obama has to do is swing a couple of those red states where race is not as much of a factor in order to get 270 electoral votes. The inexperience factor is a wildcard, but never forget that Obama is the only candidate on either side that can say he has never supported the War in Iraq, which would be huge with independents.

Edwards probably has the most convincing electability argument. It can be argued that he is the only candidate on either side that actually puts all fifty states in play, though Rudy Giuliani might have a thing to say about that. Here is the crux of the argument: since it is highly unlikely that a 2004 blue state goes red in 2008, the Democrats' best chance in this election is to nominate a candidate that can subdue Republican voter turnout in the red states. That candidate is John Edwards.


Until tomorrow.

5 comments:

Darren said...

Out of all the Red States from 04, Obama has the best chance of turning Florida. Agree or disagree?

IC said...

Darren, unless Richardson is on the ticket, Florida will stay red. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist are too popular there to let a Democrat win the state.

And, I think you'll agree, that the Dems will not run Richardson with Obama.

So what's the ticket with the best chance to win the White House? Edwards-Richardson.

Darren said...

I'm not sure I agree. I think Obama can turn the state blue, especially if he runs against Giuliani. I doubt many of the Republicans would want Jeb Bush to be openly supporting them at rallies and such. I know he's popular there, but I think they may be cautious and remove any blatent support with the name Bush from their campaign trails. Many of the Hispanic voters that traditionally vote Republican are also Catholic. Catholic voters tend to be concerned with social issues rather than fiscal. Why would they vote for Giuliani, who as a family man, has failed and has similar views on social issues as a democrat, when they could choose someone like Obama, who appears to be genuine as well as modestly religious.

IC said...

It's the evangelical voters who tend to be more concerned with the social issues. Giuliani himself is a Catholic.

And Floridians don't even think of Jeb Bush as a Bush. They love him, and actually love the family. They just consider President Bush as a black sheep.

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