Up till, well, just a few days ago, I was perfectly comfortable with either Democratic candidate winning. The recent turn by HRC, however, has me wondering what she’s thinking – and making me less willing to support her.
To describe the problem simply, she’s morphing into McCain. Except McCain has more experience in each of her “strengths”.
Now I actually understand the strategy. She’s realized that a mud-throwing contest has her losing — she tried, and each time her side took a bigger hit than his. (Possible exception, the NAFTA stuff in Ohio. I say possible as there are other issues in play.) So what she’s doing is trying to pretend the stage is her vs McCain, and Obama has already lost but doesn’t really matter. Right now she’s tying herself to the presidential stage. But she’s doing it poorly.
She’s doing it by showing how she is worthy of standing on the stage with McCain. She’s building up her eventual opponent. What this is going to do is give lots and lots of meat for her foe if she’s the nominee — Yep, they’ll say, even SHE realizes McCain is the better candidate.
Here’s the basic deal. McCain is “four more years, again.” Same plan (but executed better) for Iraq, for the economy, for, well, everything. What Hillary is saying, basically, is that she agrees – four more years is fine, it’s just she can do it better. (The plan is good, it’s who can better execute it that we need to determine.)
Now, how does HRC win the nomination. Basically, she convinces the party bosses to vote for her as superdelegates over the popular nominee. Right now Obama has about 140 more pledged (popular vote/caucus) delegates than HRC. Assuming current conventional wisdom for assignment of the remaining states’ delegates, with tossups and rounding always in HRC’s favor, Obama ends up with about 120 more delegates than Clinton. (To state it another way – assuming it remains close but HRC has the edge.) Apportion elected delegates (about half) by the way their state ran, and it’s again about 120 lead for Obama.
OK, with all that — all breaks toward HRC — the machine superdelegates (the ones who have their vote as a party member, not as a former or current elected official) have to break almost 2:1 to HRC for her to win, barely.
Personally, I think she’d making a mistake with her “McCain Lite” current sales pitch. I think it’ll hurt her in some states – but we won’t know for sure for about 6 more weeks. What I think will happen is that after we’re done with primary season, Obama will have an even larger margin of pledged, and that’s when we’ll finally start seeing the bulk of superdelegates decide. And once more, the historic pattern is that they see where the crowd is going and then dash out in front. This could be an exception – HRC is the machine’s candidate after all – but the elected supers are still politicians, many of whom want re-elected. Yes, that means Obama will be the nominee.
OK, let me conclude by quieting some fears.
First and foremost, “OMG it’s going on forever the party will be torn apart we’re SCREWED…” Bah. That particular scary thing happens only if enough supers decline to decide between the end of the primaries and the beginning of the convention, and even then it’s low probability.
a) this is how the primaries are SUPPOSED to work. Democracy in action. Even better, everyone has a voice.
b) Since everyone has a voice, there’s more buy-in and enthusiasm. Which means higher participation – which will pay off in the general.
c) Since it’s still a fight, both candidates — and the party as a whole — are getting a chance to actually test their ground game – their “get out the vote” machines. There are huge gaps between plans and reality, and every state and neighborhood has its foibles to mess up the plan. The Republicans have been largely sleepwalking since mid February. Their machine has been better in the past, but this time it’s not getting much exercise.
d) free advertising. McCain is going to be hard-pressed to have a significant voice in the press. Heck, recently he’s gone to hosting BBQ for the press to get something, anything. People aren’t really going to be asking him his position on this, that or the other thing except as major world events occur. HRC and Obama, on the other hand, are still newsworthy — ONE of them will win, but it’s not decided yet. (Yes, I say it’s Obama, but if he sits on his laurels or he does something really stupid, he loses. It’s not a guarantee for him.)
e) Practice by the candidates. Every debate, every news show, every meet&greet, is one more chance to hone the skills and deal with the “hunh?” moments. The difference in the parties’ respective debates was already noticeable. The two Dems have had to polish and refine and react and do it over and over, while McCain… hasn’t. And more importantly, won’t – for at least a couple more months.
Now as I already said, the Republicans won’t win. Unless, of course, HRC continues to sell herself as McCain Lite. Because right now, the economy is suffering and 2/3 of the public wants out of Iraq and… basically, 2/3 of the public says NO to “four more years.”
Which means, again, why is HRC shooting herself in the foot? Hunh?