Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don't Buy Those Hillary Exit Polls

There are some exit polls circulating that show that if Hillary Clinton had been the Democratic presidential nominee, she would have (gasp!) beaten John McCain by even more than Barack Obama did!

My advice? Don't buy it. Nate Silver, who is WAY smarter than I or anyone else could hope to be when it comes to these matters, has this to say:
If America had woken up last Tuesday morning and magically found Hillary Clinton's name on the ballot in lieu of Barack Obama, might she have won by 11 points? Perhaps. She certainly proved herself to be an exceptionally compelling candidate, even if her execution and staffing decisions were sometimes wanting.

But what would Clinton's numbers have looked like if she had actually endured ... you know ... a campaign?

Would she have handled the financial crisis with as much aplomb as Obama did? Probably. Would she have been so capable and reassuring in the debates? Almost certainly. Would she have had an easier time resonating with working class voters in places like Missouri and West Virginia? Yes.

But would she have managed the media as deftly as Obama did? Perhaps not. Would Republican attacks on Bill Clinton and Kazakhstan been as counterproductive to their cause as their effort to link Barack Obama and Bill Ayers? Maybe -- or maybe not. Would she have matched Obama's field organization and raised as much money? Doubtful.

Would her campaign have had the same steely confidence as Obama's did after the Republican convention bounce? Unlikely. Would she have delivered as strong a speech as Mr. Obama did in Denver? Iffy. Would she have catalyzed near-universal turnout in the black community? No.
These kinds of hypotheticals are ridiculous, and should not be taken seriously. Later on in his post (which I would have included here but didn't for the sake of space), Silver also mentions the most obvious thing that would have been different had Hillary been the nominee: there would have been no Sarah Palin. It is almost unfathomable that John McCain would have picked Palin as his running mate had the Democratic ticket been headed by another woman who also happened to be much smarter and much more qualified to run for national office.

Furthermore, I think that the contrast between Obama and McCain was one that worked heavily in the Democrats' favor. Obama, with his name, background and relative greenness to Washington, was a convincing agent of change and had great appeal to independents. He was the first Democrat to win independents in a generation.

Even if she had been the nominee, and even if she had won anyway, I would bet you a lot of money that there is no way in hell that Hillary Clinton would have won independents, and certainly not any significant number of Republicans. Hillary Clinton is very popular with two groups of people: women and Democrats, who are, by and large, one and the same (meaning the majority of women are Democrats, and the majority of Democrats are women).

Could Hillary have won? Probably, though no one can say for sure. Is it a certainty that she would have beaten McCain by more than Obama did? Not at all, and I dare say it's more likely that the election would have been a squeaker.

1 comment:

Madley said...

i realize i'm reading your blog a little datedly, and also in reverse, but again i have to disagree...hillary's speech in denver resonated far more strongly with me (and many many people i know) than obama's did...and that was her (more or less) concession speech...imagine what it would've been like had it been her acceptance speech...just sayin'