Annotating Clinton Memo: “Hillary is the Democrat to Beat McCain”

Annotated excerpts from a memo sent out by top Clinton strategist Mark Penn, with the full text after the jump:

If John McCain becomes the Republican nominee, Hillary is the Democrat who can beat him — because she has the strength and experience a president needs to get America on the right course and to defend it against future threats. She is the hands-on leader that America needs as we slip into a worsening economic crisis. Her ability to be both a strong commander-in-chief and steward of the economy are what make her the favorite against Sen. McCain.

The economy is a valid point – McCain has repeatedly professed his lack of knowledge on the subject. And you can be sure that Hillary would constantly refer to the economic prosperity of the 1990’s, although her contribution to that is minimal. But the economy is the only strong point, aside from the gender card. As Frank Rich put it, McCain is “a bazooka aimed at most every rationale she’s offered for her candidacy.” Take experience, her main advantage in the primary. The moment she recites her now stale spiel about “35 years of experience,” McCain would go back thirty five years himself. In the spring of 1973, McCain emerged from his five years as a POW in Vietnam, while Bill and Hillary were still ensconced in Yale

As voters look to the future, they will be looking at who can put the country on the right path and who can defend it against future threats. While Hillary is seen as strong on defense and has served on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Obama has no record on these national security issues that would again be front and center.

“I am sick and tired of Democrats thinking the only way to look tough on national security is by talking and acting and voting like George Bush Republicans” – Obama. Regardless of the nominees, the two parties will have opposing views on the way forward in Iraq. However, Clinton’s political posturing undermines her credibility on the issue, as she failed to speak out against the war until 2005. Obama’s firm anti-war-in-Iraq stance is the starkest contrast to McCain’s position.

Already well vetted, she is ready to stand up to Sen. McCain on national security and put together a winning coalition of voters that will take back the White House.

Well-vetted? The New York Times just had a story on Bill’s dubious business dealings, surefire ammunition for the Republicans come November. There are also issues with the Clinton Library, dubbed “Little Rock’s Fort Knox.”  Although Obama has not been completely vetted, neither have the Clintons.

To: Interested Parties

From: Mark Penn, Chief Strategist

Date: Saturday, February 2, 2008

Re: Hillary is the Democrat to Beat McCain

If John McCain becomes the Republican nominee, Hillary is the Democrat who can beat him — because she has the strength and experience a president needs to get America on the right course and to defend it against future threats. She is the hands-on leader that America needs as we slip into a worsening economic crisis. Her ability to be both a strong commander-in-chief and steward of the economy are what make her the favorite against Sen. McCain.

Sen. Obama has been telling voters that he is the one to beat Sen. McCain because he gave a speech against the war in 2002 and because he is currently attracting independent voters. But those arguments don’t hold up to current polling, to history or to what is likely to happen in a general election.

First, there is no support to Sen. Obama’s assertion that his 2002 speech makes him a stronger choice in a general election. Recent history shows that voters look to who they believe can end a war and protect us against future wars. No one believes that if Hillary had been president she would have started the war. In fact, Hillary is backed by prominent anti-war leaders because they believe she is uniquely able to end the war responsibly.

Based on recent polls, there is nothing to support Sen. Obama’s arguments about his prospective performance against Sen. McCain – both Sen. Obama and Hillary start off within the margin of error against Sen. McCain. Yesterday’s Fox poll showed both ahead of Sen. McCain by 1 point. And Hillary’s negatives are fully factored in, whereas the same cannot be said of Sen. Obama because he is – by his own admission – not as well known.

Sen. Obama’s support among independents comes from Democratic-leaning independents, voters who are likely to back the eventual Democratic nominee. He has no overall advantage in the polls against Sen. McCain. But such voters have very little information about Sen. Obama. And once the Republican machine begins to methodically attack him, he will lose independent support.

So in a head to head against Sen. McCain, Sen. Obama has no advantage with swing voters.
The 2004 election was determined by two key groups – women concerned about security and Latinos – and against Sen. McCain those groups could again prove decisive. President Bush won 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004 and Sen. McCain, unlike other Republicans, has been supportive of immigration reform. These are two groups that enthusiastically support Hillary.

As voters look to the future, they will be looking at who can put the country on the right path and who can defend it against future threats. While Hillary is seen as strong on defense and has served on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Obama has no record on these national security issues that would again be front and center.

So if Sen. McCain is the nominee, Hillary is the one well-positioned to beat him. Already well vetted, she is ready to stand up to Sen. McCain on national security and put together a winning coalition of voters that will take back the White House.

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