Many in the Democratic Party have wondered how Hillary Clinton could bring herself to praise Republican John McCain as ready to be commander-in-chief, while suggesting that Democrat Barack Obama is not. What could possibly explain such perfidy? Was it malevolence toward Obama or those in the Democratic Party who have “abandoned” her and flocked to him? Or simply an indication of her strong affinity for McCain? Or did it reflect an attitude that, if she couldn’t win in November, then, by God, no Democrat would? I submit it was none of the above. Hillary Clinton’s motivation for touting John McCain while knee-capping Barack Obama is simple: it represents her only chance to win over enough superdelegates to wrest the nomination from Obama.
Clinton needs Obama to drop and, unavoidably, McCain to rise in their head-to-head state-by-state match-ups. Over the past several weeks, she has tried to convince superdelegates that they should override the will of the people if, as appears certain, Obama leads in elected delegates when the primaries and caucuses end. By all accounts, her ability to sway superdelegates with this argument has failed as miserably as have her attempts to close Obama’s delegate lead. So Clinton is down to her last argument to the superdelegates: “I’m electable and he’s not.” As evidence, she asserts that she can win “the big states” but Obama cannot. The problem with this argument is that superdelegates can read polls.
They know, therefore, that current polls do not support Clinton’s electability assertions, but rather contradict them. Current polls, for example, indicate that, despite Clinton primary wins there, Obama actually outpolls her in match-ups against McCain in the two largest states, California and her home state of New York. And she polls no better than Obama when matched against McCain in New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Ohio, again despite wins there. Even more significant, current polls show Obama ahead of McCain and Clinton behind McCain in eight other battleground states. In still other battleground states, like New Mexico (where Clinton won) and Maine, current polls show that, while Clinton leads McCain slightly, Obama leads him substantially. And even in some traditionally “red” states, like North Carolina and Nebraska, current polls show Obama within striking range of McCain, while Clinton trails McCain substantially, sometimes by 25 percentage points or more.
This reality is motivation enough for Clinton to do the only thing she has left to do: try to alter Obama’s state-by-state poll numbers against McCain by attacking Obama while going soft on – and at times even praising – McCain. Clinton realizes that, unless she is performing better in polls against McCain than Obama is by the time the primary voting ends in June, her argument to the superdelegates that she is electable and Obama is not will fall on deaf ears. What complicates Clinton’s task even more is that Obama has built up such a substantial delegate lead that it’s quite possible the votes of currently uncommitted superdelegates could be enough to put Obama over the magic number of 2,024, but that such votes might not be enough to put Clinton over this magic number. In other words, depending somewhat on what happens with Florida and Michigan, she probably would need more than just the currently uncommitted superdelegates to win the nomination. So expect to see Clinton pull out all the stops against Obama over the next two months, in a desperate attempt not only to sell her electability theory to currently uncommitted superdelegates, but also to woo superdelegates currently backing Obama. Bottom line, get ready for the worst from the Clinton camp, Democrats: the likelihood is that, as June approaches, the below-the-belt shots from Clinton and her surrogates on Obama will resemble Rush Limbaugh’s.
As support for the hypothesis that Clinton is motivated to drive down Obama’s state-by-state poll numbers against McCain, consider the following analysis of Clinton’s and Obama’s relative electability, based on current polls. It shows that the “electability” race is not even close. At the end of this analysis is a “roadmap” by which Obama, if current polls hold true, could capture the 270 electoral votes needed to win the Presidency. This analysis also demonstrates why, based on current polls, Clinton faces simply too steep a climb to make the same claim plausibly. Hence her urgent need to shake up the status quo.
A. THE DEMOCRATIC “LOCKS” – STATES BOTH OBAMA AND CLINTON WOULD WIN
9 DEMOCRATIC “LOCKS” (TOTAL OF 79 ELECTORAL VOTES; KERRY WON ALL OF THEM)
Connecticut, Deleware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island – Obama won all but three (Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) and he polls better than Clinton against McCain in all but three. Obama polls the same as Clinton in New Jersey and Rhode Island, despite her wins there; the only one of the 9 states where she outpolls him against McCain is Massachusetts.
3 ADDITIONAL DEMOCRATIC “LOCKS” WHERE CLINTON WON THE PRIMARY, BUT WHERE OBAMA LEADS McCAIN MORE COMFORTABLY THAN CLINTON DOES (TOTAL OF 90 ELECTORAL VOTES; KERRY WON ALL OF THEM)
New York (31 electoral votes)
California (55 electoral votes)
New Hampshire (4 electoral votes)
B. THIS YEAR’S EXPANDED LIST OF "BATTLEGROUND” STATES
Current polling suggests that Barack Obama’s presence in the race dramatically expands the list of “battleground” states this fall.
3 BATTLEGROUND STATES WHERE OBAMA LEADS McCAIN MORE COMFORTABLY THAN CLINTON DOES (TOTAL OF 12 ELECTORAL VOTES)
New Mexico (5 electoral votes; Kerry lost)
Vermont (3 electoral votes; really only a battleground if Clinton is the nominee)
Maine (4 electoral votes; battleground because it doesn’t award electoral votes winner-take-all)
8 BATTLEGROUND STATES WHERE OBAMA LEADS McCAIN, BUT CLINTON TRAILS McCAIN (TOTAL OF 64 ELECTORAL VOTES)
Minnesota (10 electoral votes)
Nevada (5 electoral votes; Kerry lost)
Iowa (7 electoral votes; Kerry lost)
Colorado (9 electoral votes; Kerry lost)
Virginia (13 electoral votes; Kerry lost)
Oregon (7 electoral votes)
Wisconsin (10 electoral votes)
North Dakota (3 electoral votes; Kerry lost)
6 REMAINING BATTLEGROUND STATES – South Carolina (8 electoral votes), Florida (27 electoral votes), Ohio (20 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes), Michigan (17 electoral votes), and Washington (11 electoral votes). Of these six states, Obama won two, Clinton won one, one is upcoming, and two may be re-done. Obama and Clinton poll about the same against McCain in these 6 states, i.e., both trail McCain slightly in all of them. Kerry won half of them – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Washington.
C. ADDITIONAL “RED” STATES THAT ONLY OBAMA WOULD PUT IN PLAY FOR THE DEMOCRATS
8 TRADITIONALLY “RED” STATES WHERE OBAMA CAN COMPETE WITH McCAIN OR AT LEAST FORCE HIM TO CAMPAIGN ACTIVELY, BUT CLINTON CANNOT (TOTAL OF 56 ELECTORAL VOTES; KERRY LOST ALL OF THEM)
North Carolina (15 electoral votes)
Kansas (6 electoral votes)
Nebraska (5 electoral votes; also doesn’t award electoral votes winner-take-all)
Alaska (3 electoral votes)
Georgia (15 electoral votes)
Montana (3 electoral votes)
Utah (5 electoral votes)
Idaho (4 electoral votes)
BARACK OBAMA’S ROADMAP TO 270 ELECTORAL VOTES
IF HE WINS THE 12 DEMOCRATIC “LOCKS” (169) PLUS THE SAME 6 BATTLEGROUNDS THAT JOHNKERRY WON, PA, MI, WA, OR, WI, AND ME (69) PLUS 2 BATTLEGROUNDS WHERE OBAMA CURRENTLY LEADS McCAIN BY AT LEAST 15 PERCENTAGE POINTS, VT AND NM (8) PLUS 3 BATTLEGROUNDS WHERE OBAMA CURRENTLY LEADS McCAIN BY AT LEAST 10 PERCENTAGEPOINTS, MN, IA, AND NV (22), OBAMA WOULD HAVE 268 OF THE 270 ELECTORAL VOTES HE NEEDS TO WIN THE PRESIDENCY. TO DENY OBAMA THE REMAINING 2 ELECTORAL VOTES NEEDED, McCAIN WOULD HAVE TO RUN THE TABLE, WINNING IN ALL OF THE FOLLOWING CONTESTED STATES: COLORADO, OHIO, FLORIDA, VIRGINIA, NORTH DAKOTA, SOUTH CAROLINA, NORTH CAROLINA, KANSAS, NEBRASKA, ALASKA, GEORGIA, MONTANA, UTAH, AND IDAHO.
COULD HILLARY CLINTON WIN 270 ELECTORAL VOTES? ASSUMING SHE ALSO WOULD WIN THE DEMOCRATIC “LOCKS” (169 ELECTORAL VOTES), SHE WOULD NEED TO COBBLE TOGETHER 101 ADDITIONAL ELECTORAL VOTES FROM AMONG MINNESOTA, NEVADA, IOWA, COLORADO, VIRGINIA, OREGON, WISCONSIN, FLORIDA, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA, MICHIGAN, AND WASHINGTON. BUT HERE'S THE PROBLEM: BASED ON CURRENT POLLS, SHE TRAILS McCAIN IN EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE BATTLEGROUND STATES. IF CURRENT POLLS HOLD TRUE, HILLARY CLINTON WOULD NOT WIN AS MANY ELECTORAL VOTES AS JOHN KERRY WON IN 2004.