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« Missing White House Emails | Main | More Turmoil in Iraq: Maybe the Surge Hasn't been Working »

March 24, 2008



The electoral college argument is the same sort of "start with the outcome you want, then work backward to a premise that supports it", crap argument that you've been (rightfully!) calling the Obama camp out on. It is, simply put, self-serving bunk.

This is not to say that the electoral college isn't significant in the general election; that's self-evident. But if you wrap your head around Even Bayh's argument, you quickly realize that the virtual EC count of each candidate's primary wins only matters if we think Hillary would win Texas or Obama would fail to win California. Or conversely, that Obama would win Georgia or Hillary would lose Hawaii. Those things will happen when pigs fly.

Superdelegates get to vote for who they want, blah blah, we both agree on this. If Hillary wants to make an argument that doesn't insult my intelligence, she should quit talking about "big states" and focus on the general election polling numbers for the borderline states that will actually decide the election. That argument is much subtler and harder to make, and doesn't depend on previous primary wins, but at least it's relevant.


BTW, in addition to that old Survey USA poll comparing McCain heads-up in every state to both Obama and Clinton, is also running those numbers. He's using the most recent available data from each state, which unfortunately is pretty far back in a lot of cases, but it's something.

D. Cupples


Your response seems to address someone’s else arguments more than mine. My arguments were:

1. “One problem with the [NYT] article: electoral votes are not a new consideration.”

2. “IF one candidate shows a strong electoral-votes advantage after the primaries end, then any super-delegate who actually wants a Democrat to win in November certainly should consider electoral votes when deciding whether to support Hillary or Obama.”

My second argument is conditional and not definitive at this point, because at this point, NEITHER candidate has shown a strong electoral-votes advantage. That’s why I don’t suggest that the superdelegates should rush to either candidate.

After the next 10 primaries are done, one candidate MIGHT show a strong electoral advantage, in which case, I think super-delegates should consider electoral votes as ONE factor. (I said this in the post)

The reason I DIDN’T say that super-delegates should jump on Hillary’s boat now is that I am aware of the numbers.

As I said in my post, big Blue States will likely go to the Dem nominee, whoever it is. The Times’ eye isn’t even on the ball when it mentions that Hillary has won states whose electoral votes total 219 (versus Obama’s 202).

First, Neither candidate would get Texas, so you can subtract 34 electoral votes (though the NYT doesn’t clarify how it counted TX in either candidates’ tally given that each candidate got a piece of TX).

The Obama campaign’s number-of-states argument doesn’t hold water because smaller states don’t matter MUCH in the general election compared to big states.

In the primaries/caucuses, Obama won 10 Red States whose total electoral-vote count in November will be 63. Hillary won two red states, whose ec votes total 41.

Niether one of them will get those red states, so we can subtract them out. EITHER candidate would likely win NY and CA, (which have a combined 84 electoral votes).

What matters is how each Dem will do in purple states (esp. larger ones). Hillary’s and Obama’s success in those states is still close – though, after the next 10 elections, one MIGHT emerge as having a greater advantage.

Beyond that, my post doesn’t make any definitive arguments as to who has the greater advantage.

Why did my non-definitive conclusions about the candidates' current relative strengths elicit such strong objections from you?


Replying to Adam above, focusing on who would win the most electoral votes in the swing states (and therefore the election) *is* a huge consideration, and the math favors Clinton there too. If you look at the twelve states where the vote difference between Bush and Kerry was 5% or under in 2004, Clinton won in states totalling 78 electoral votes, and is ahead in polling in PA, worth another 21 votes. Obama only won in states totalling 47 electoral votes. OR (7 electoal votes) hasn't voted yet and I'm not aware of any polling.

Of course there will not necessarily be a one-to-one correspondence between Clinton or Obama winning a particular state primary and winning that state in the general election. But it is instructive as to the relative strengths of the candidates in those states, and Clinton has greater strength in the crucial swing states.


DC, I absolutely agree with your statement "[Adam's] response seems to address someone’s else arguments more than mine". I apologize for seeming like I'm attacking your post, which I agree, on re-reading, is what it seemed like I was doing. I'm simply frustrated that every new iteration of "the superdelegates should vote THIS way" gets coverage. Bayh's argument is all spin.

Very very very roughly, I think the real arguments are:

Obama - If I run, several red states (e.g. Colorado) turn purple, i.e. more of the map is in play.

Clinton - If I run, I've got an advantage in a handful of crucial purple states (e.g. Ohio).

Aaron, I agree with the statement "Of course there will not necessarily be a one-to-one correspondence between Clinton or Obama winning a particular state primary and winning that state in the general election." The GE is a very, very different animal. You can start by looking at the primary results in swing states, but then you have to ask,

1) Did Hillary receive a significant bump in March 4 and subsequent primaries/caucuses from the "Rush effect", where Limbaugh has been encouraging Republicans to strategically vote for Hillary to prolong the nomination process?
2) Whose primary voters are more likely to switch to McCain in the general election if the other candidate is the nominee (other than the Rush voters, obviously)?
3) Whose primary voters are more likely to stay home during the general election if the other candidate is the nominee?
4) Which candidate is likely to be more effective getting lazy democrats who skipped the primaries to show up in the general election?
5) Which candidate is more likely to draw in independents and antiwar republicans who didn't vote in the primary (or voted in the republican primary) during the general election?

That's just a first cut of things to consider. There's also reason to consider what the likely focus of the fall campaign will be depending on the democratic nominee, and whether that focus is more or less likely to energize voters in the key states. I'm sure there's lots of other significant angles to this question that I'm not considering.

It's a complicated issue, and it doesn't seem like either candidate is insterested in (publicly) addressing it in a serious way. I can't really blame them, as adressing the points above doesn't lend itself to quick soundbites for the nightly news. But I'm not taking anything either campaign says on this issue at all seriously, because their current talking points are not designed to weather serious consideration.

D. Cupples


'No need to apologize: you and I like to debate.

I think we all agree that there are more factors that smart super-delegates will weigh a number of factors (including electoral votes and the factors you two listed).

Frankly, I think that neither Dem has a good chance against McCain unless the two Dems are on one ticket. I could be wrong, though: weirder things have happened.


As I said before Obama pulled ahead, and before this campaign got so rancorous, Clinton/Obama makes more sense than Obama/Clinton. But given the way things are headed, I think Obama will pretty much have to offer the VP to Hillary if he wins, in order to placate Hillary supporters, and vice versa.

Honestly, I'd be surprised if Hillary really wants the VP slot - I think she'd rather stay a senator. Offering it to her and having her publicly turn it down would probably be a necessary farce, though. On the other hand, Obama would probably accept a VP offer if Hillary does manage to pull this out.

Projecting how either of these candidates will do against McCain is a guessing game at this stage. But all Obama has to do is take Gore states plus a single plains or western state and he pulls it out. If he can sweep VA/CO/NV he can even survive losing PA. For Hillary, it's all about winning either Florida or Ohio.

D. Cupples

As I often say, time'll tell. Come June, we'll know a lot more.

Frankly, I don't remember which states Gore won. do you have a link to a table that lists them?


Gore won PA, MI, IA, NM, OR, and all the solid blues.

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