Can’t Close the Deal

April 28, 2008

A TNR commentator flips the argument around:

For all of Hillary’s brand recognition, institutional advantages (including the ferocious support of a former president), fund-raising head start and inherent appeal to the party’s core constituency (working class white women), she finds herself on the ropes, in debt and having to go hugely negative just to stay alive. Does any sane Democrat really think that this is a viable alternative to Obama?

Hillary could have sealed the nomination with a victory in Iowa’s kickoff caucuses, thereby stifling the nascent Obama phenomenon. Instead, the candidate of inevitability bumbled to a third-place finish, attributing her loss to a series of bizarre handicaps*.

A second opportunity to close the deal surfaced after Iowa, with Clinton advisers publicly anointing February 5th as Obama’s Waterloo. Hillary herself boasted, “It’ll be over by February 5th.” Lulled into a false sense of complacency, the Clinton camp then failed Common Sense 101: have a back-up plan.

Super Tuesday arrived, and the promised knockout blow failed to materialize. Without a Plan B, the Clinton forces staggered through the rest of February, ogling Obama’s eleven-contest winning streak and pledged delegate lead.  The discussion then switched to “staying relevant” rather than “closing the deal.”  Given two prime opportunities to secure the nomination, the Clinton campaign squandered both.

*Such as Bill’s absence from the state during his two presidential campaigns.

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Dems, Don’t Despair

April 25, 2008

Political scientist Alan Abramowitz makes a point about shifting party alignments:

Fifty-two percent of Americans now identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party while only 39 percent identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. [Gallup]

The fact that Democratic identifiers now decisively outnumber Republican identifiers means that in order to win, Democrats only have to unite and turn out their own base. If Obama wins the national popular vote by even a single percentage point, it’s worth remembering, he’ll almost certainly win the electoral vote as well. In order for John McCain to win, on the other hand, Republicans not only have to unite and turn out their own base, which they have been fairly successful at doing in recent elections, but they also have to win a large majority of the small bloc of true independents and make significant inroads among Democratic identifiers, which they have not been very successful at doing recently.

The logic appears sound, but polling data belies the claim. The latest Cook Report poll has a partisan breakdown – 50% Democrats, 39% Republicans – similar to the Gallup numbers Abramowitz cites. Against Obama, McCain wins independents by five points, hardly a “large majority,” and captures 12% of Democrats, hardly a “significant inroads” since that’s just a hair above the Democrat defection rate (10% or 11%) for the last four presidential elections. Despite not fulfilling Abramowitz’s conditions, McCain loses the general election to Obama by only one point, 44% to 45%. Just a tiny improvement among independents and McCain secures the White House.


Evaluating Obama Campaign’s Predictions

April 23, 2008

Back on February 6th, the Obama campaign leaked an internal spreadsheet (.xls) projecting the rest of the primary season. Since then, the predictions have proved prescient, calling races with remarkable accuracy. The campaign has correctly picked the winner of every single contest, with the one exception of Maine (projection – Clinton; actual – Obama). Beginning March 4th, the average error in calculating Obama’s share of the vote is a minuscule 1.71%. To put it into perspective: the projections, made more than one or two months before the actual voting, are more accurate than any pollster’s record.

Using the spreadsheet to examine upcoming contests, both Indiana and North Carolina should be Obama victories by respectable margins. Plugging the percentages into Jay Cost’s handy spreadsheet, Obama could net 150,000 votes out of the two states – partially offsetting Clinton’s 200,000+ gain in Pennsylvania. Though more importantly, winning both could spell an end to the nomination fight.

Note: Here’s a closer look at how the predictions stack up.