Hillary and Obama, metrics… and when will it end? April 24, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.
…actually quite soon. In a way Clinton maintaining a 10 point lead in Pennsylvania is not quite as impressive as the fact that Obama, despite everything, Wright, bitterness and whatever else you’re having, managed to bring it to a 10 point difference. After all, not so long ago Clinton’s margin was vastly superior.
Chris Bream on Slate does a good small piece about this issue and how, suddenly it’s no longer about states won (which of course was the dynamic up to Super Tuesday) but is shifting towards the popular vote…
As we and everyone who can read knows, Clinton has no shot of closing Obama’s pledged-delegate lead. Her candidacy therefore depends on convincing superdelegates to vote for her despite that lead. But vague claims of “electability” aren’t enough. She needs numbers on her side, and the popular vote is her last shot at beating Obama by a legitimate metric. With Pennsylvania under her belt—the primary netted her a little more than 200,000 votes—Clinton now trails Obama by about 500,000, according to RealClearPolitics. And that’s before the spin. If you count Florida’s and Michigan’s votes, which she no doubt will, Obama’s popular-vote lead shrinks to about 100,000. Whether or not she closes that gap, she’s close enough to argue that they’re tied.
Sweet, isn’t it? There’s just enough political space there for her to mount a last stand despite the fact that Obama remains ahead. And then she can go to the super-delegates arguing that she, and she alone, has what it takes, guts, determination, tenacity, experience, to be handed the crown.
That this is perhaps typical of a campaign that has been… well, oddly difficult to pin down (or not so oddly considering that the need to win seems to have pushed all else aside as a governing approach) is noted in another Slate piece by Timothy Noah (which has the beautifully composed line ‘As Clinton’s prospects dim, her preferred metrics grow more rococo.’ – indeed):
Anyway, it isn’t completely true that the Clinton campaign no longer believes in arithmetic benchmarks. It would be more accurate to say that it no longer believes in the ones that matter. Clinton is still more than happy to sling irrelevant metrics. And the damned things keep changing! When Hillary started falling behind in primary delegates, her campaign emphasized her lead in superdelegates, the cigar-chomping party pros of yore who know a thing or two about electability. They gave that up when superdelegates started drifting Obama’s way. (At the moment, Hillary has only 25 more superdelegates than Obama.) Then the Clinton campaign started arguing that you can’t nominate for president someone who lacks a popular-vote majority in the primaries.
It’s a nice plausible little narrative, or bundle of narratives with one key message (at least if you want Clinton to win), which only breaks apart if one considers just how it might impact on the Democratic party. Because while I always thought the idea that the two contenders tearing chunks out of each other was overblown (there is definitely something in the idea that foreshadowing troubling issues may well defang them), by contrast the idea that a Clinton coup d’etat, or installing by machination rather than clear unequivocal victory is rather less so. What happens if she is installed to the Obama base? The point isn’t that the supporters of one side or another are more or less virtuous, simply that the optics would be gruesome and this would be more likely (as far as I can see) to impact on the Obama voters than the Clinton voters.
The Obama non-electability argument is far from fully persuasive. Indeed I’d very much like to see it articulated in a definitively convincing fashion (although Eagle has touched on it in a way which may go some way towards that).
Indiana is now primed to be the showdown. Bream suggests that while the polls aren’t telling a clear story: Clinton has reason to fear Obama in the Hoosier State, where basketball chops are as important as stimulus packages.
But in a way I can’t help feeling that she has more to fear about herself and the way her campaign has been played. She has been right to push forward, but wrong to keep pinning her hopes on shifting metrics. It is, as someone noted, ‘fairweather’ and self-serving. A bit of consistency goes a long way, even in politics.