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The Electability Question: Some Information, Some Thoughts

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I noticed something in the numbers today on the political futures market, Intrade.com.  

According to that collective wisdom, Hillary Clinton has a 23.8 percent chance of getting the nomination, and an 18.5 percent chance of becoming president.

Obama, meanwhile, is assigned a 73.8 percent chance of getting the nomination, and a 41.8 percent chance of becoming president.

(All these numbers, by the way, represent improvements for Clinton and deterioration for Obama.)

What struck me was the relationship, for each candidate, between those two different probabilities.  So I did a little calculation.

What these numbers imply is that IF SHE GETS THE NOMINATION, the market gives her a 77.7 chance of beating John McCain.  And, regarding Obama, IF HE GETS THE NOMINATION, the market gives him a 56.6 percent chance of beating John McCain.

In other words, right now, the market regards Hillary as more electable than Barack for the fall campaign.

Here are a couple of my thoughts about this:  

First, I think the market may be wrong.  And my reason for thinking so is contained in this comment I posted on Thursday:  

<blockquote>Ill bet that it would be a whole lot easier for Obama to disabuse the voters who have a negative impression of him –for his elitism, or suspicion of his being a Muslim and unpatriotic– than it would be for Hillary to disabuse voters who have a negative impression of her.

THe suspicions of Obama have a lot to do with people not really knowing who he is.

But a majority of Americans have decided that Hillary is dishonest, and they’ve had a good chance to watch her in action to draw that conclusion.


In other words, I think that Obama's problems with the public are mostly superficial and curable (whatever factor racism may play being, of course, an exception), while Hillary's I see as deep-seated and intractable.

However, there may well be another side to this "electability" issue.  Hillary has shown that she's prepared to do anything to win, and that makes her the formidable "fighter" that she's portrayed herself as being.  Obama, by contrast, has shown himself to be both more principled and more restrained in combating his rivals.  And that may make him seem easier to beat for the Republicans in the fall.

Indeed, it may make him REALLY easier to beat for the Republicans in the fall.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. He is the author of various books including The Parable of the Tribes: The (more...)

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