Why Republicans are voting for Clinton

If you want the Democrats to win the 2008 general election, this is very bad news:

Texas results

Clinton beat Obama by 10% in Ohio. She also squeaked out a narrow victory in the popular vote in Texas, as you can see.

It’s a good enough result to keep her in the race. But she can’t win, unless she wins very, very ugly.

  • Before yesterday’s voting, Obama was ahead by approximately 150 pledged delegates (excluding superdelegates). Last night doesn’t change that. On the contrary, Obama will probably pick up more delegates than Clinton because one third of the Texas delegates will be chosen by caucus. (It may be a week or more before we know the caucus results.)
  • On the other hand, Obama isn’t anywhere near the endzone. Before last night, he had about 1180 delegates; he needs a total of 2025 to mathematically eliminate Clinton.
  • The primary process extends through a June 7 vote in Puerto Rico, and isn’t formally wrapped up until the Democratic National Convention. I believe the date for that is August 25. So Obama is likely to win, but he may be facing attacks from both McCain and Clinton for the next six months, before the general election campaign officially gets underway.
  • Alternatively, Clinton wins ugly, by:  (a) demanding that the delegates from Michigan and Florida be counted, even though Clinton was the only candidate to make a (tacit) appeal for votes in Florida, and Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan; and (b) continuing to claim that Obama’s victories don’t count, for one reason or another, and persuading the superdelegates to overturn Obama’s lead in pledged delegates.

The upshot is this:  last night was extremely good news for the Republicans. Matthew Yglesias reports:

Anecdotal evidence of substantial numbers of Republicans crossing party lines in Ohio. As in other states, the anecdotes have some voting for Hillary because they think she’s easier to beat, and others voting for Obama because they hate Hillary and want to see her beaten. Interestingly, you rarely hear Republicans thinking it would be easier to beat Obama. (emphasis added)

Hmmmm. Why do Republicans think Clinton would be easier to beat? She has 35 years of experience, doesn’t she? And people who care about national security would surely prefer her to Obama:  doesn’t that make her the more formidable opponent?

Maybe not. In 2002, as Obama was speaking out against the Iraq war, here’s where Clinton stood. In her own words (hat tip, Yglesias):

Clinton insists that her 2002 vote wasn’t intended to authorize the Iraq war; that she intended only to create pressure so that U.N. inspectors could do their work. But her speech seems unequivocal to me:

Any vote that might lead to war should be hard. But I cast it with conviction. And perhaps my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, in the White House, watching my husband deal with serious challenges to our nation. I want this President, or any future President, to be in the strongest possible position to lead our country in the United Nations or in war.

Secondly, I want to ensure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity, and for our support for the President’s efforts to wage America’s war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. …

Gee, I wonder if John McCain could make use of that video in a general election campaign, if Hillary Clinton turned out to be his opponent?

On the other hand, if the choice is between McCain and Obama … yesterday, Clinton endorsed McCain:

Clinton says, McCain has the requisite experience to be President but Obama doesn’t.

There are now three possible outcomes:

  1. Obama wins, per his current lead, but comes out badly damaged in the process.
  2. Clinton wins ugly — and enters the general election as a badly damaged candidate.
  3. The superdelegates step in, in the next week or so, to put Obama over the top.

The last scenario would be ironic. It’s exactly what Clinton wants to happen — except for the “wrong” candidate.

The superdelegates should consider doing it to avoid the first two scenarios outlined above. If the goal is to beat McCain in the general election — which it surely is — a quick victory for Obama is the Democratic Party’s best chance.

I think the superdelegates should wait until the results of the Texas caucus are announced. When it becomes clear that Obama’s lead in pledged delegates is actually growing, that’s sufficient justification for the superdelegates to rally behind him.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Random
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 09:20:37

    (3) isn’t going to happen. The superdelegates are no more likely to call the contest to a halt by arbitrarily declaring Obama the winner than they ever would have by calling it for Hillary. Especially now that Clinton has managed to stall (but not reverse) his momentum and is finally starting to get traction on the whole “Obama just isn’t ready for prime time” thing. This thing is going at least as far as Pennsylvania and probably as far as Denver. I still stand by my opinion that Clinton’s campaign died on Sunday (although granted it’s dead in the sense of a zombie in a Resident Evil movie…), but there is still one fairly credible scenarion for Hillary to win and she ain’t giving up while it plays out. Essentially, she needs to overhaul Obama in the popular vote (which is possible, she’s about 3-500K behind at the moment I think, out of about 20m cast) and then pitch to the Supers the argument that it’s the popular vote that should decide things, not the total of pledged delegates, after all there will be no caucuses in November.

    The Supers are not going to step in until this is settled, and frankly there’s no incentive for them to do so – they’ve already had a bitter and divisive primary season and will get no credit for cutting it short. “I am in blood stepp’d in so far, that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er”
    as MacBeth put it. They have to carry on, and just hope that the resultant winner emerges battle-hardened rather than crippled.

    One final thought, drop any idea of Clinton being persuaded to give up for the good of the party. It may be good for the party, but it certainly won’t be good for the Clintons. Hillary still wants to be president, and if she doesn’t make it this time her only chance of trying again is if Obama goes down in flames in November and she gets to try again (as the “I told you so” candidate, no doubt) in 2012, when she’ll be 64. If she can’t beat Obama it’s definitely in her interests to damage him enough to ensure McCain beats him in the autumn.

    Reply

  2. Jack
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 11:56:21

    Most Republicans I know prefer Clinton over Obama for more reasons than thinking she is beatable.

    They figure that if the Republican’s lose Clinton is the lesser of two evils.

    When you undress him he is not that exciting. We’re still waiting for him to specify how he is going to make all his promises come true.

    Reply

  3. Stephen
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 12:59:19

    • Random:
    I’m not saying it’s likely that the superdelegates will step in to settle the nomination. In fact, I think it’s highly unlikely.

    But, since I want the Democrats to win, it’s galling to watch as the party risks squandering yet another opportunity to seize the upper hand. For years, Republicans have run circles around the Democrats — certainly since 9/11, and notwithstanding the current Democratic majority in Congress.

    Now the superdelegates are likely to sit on their hands while disaster looms. Do they think Clinton is a better bet against McCain? Do they think Clinton has waged a campaign that deserves to be rewarded with the nomination? Do they want to give her seven more weeks to smear Obama, perhaps fatally damaging the party’s chances in the general election?

    Do they really think Clinton can catch up in terms of pledged delegates? Because that’s the determining factor, as the rules now stand. The latest report I’ve seen suggests that Clinton picked up less than ten delegates on Obama last night.

    • Jack:
    Most Republicans I know prefer Clinton over Obama for more reasons than thinking she is beatable.

    C’mon, Jack. Republicans loathe the Clintons — they don’t want another Clinton presidency. Limbaugh explicitly appealed to his listeners to vote in the Democratic primaries in order to defeat Clinton.

    Meantime, your guy is cozying up to a preacher whose positions are very anti-Israel:

    Hagee, who heads a 19,000-member church in San Antonio, is best known for his outspoken support of Israel and writings on the Middle East, where he envisions a blood-soaked clash between East and West leading to the return of Jesus Christ.

    As Yglesias comments, “it’s not obvious in which sense envisioning a blood-soaked Middle East clash that leads to the return of Jesus Christ constitutes support for Israel.”

    Hagee has also said this:

    It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God’s chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day.

    What was McCain’s response? A vague statement — “I don’t agree with everything Hagee said” — after which he went on to identify several specific issues on which he does agree with Hagee.

    You’re going to vote for that guy? The press gave him a free pass, but surely you won’t!

    And you think Obama is the “lesser of two evils”?!

    Reply

  4. Random
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 18:32:02

    Stephen,

    I was tempted to let this one lie after the blog moved on from the previous time Hagee was discussed, but seeing as you’ve brought it up again, I want to add one more thing. I was going to write a bit more on Obama’s church’s and particularly his pastor’s, links with Farrakhan (which Obama has never denounced even while denouncing Farrakhan himself), but instead I’ll change the subject slightly and ask just one question. In your view, is pastor Hagee a better or worse man than the reverend Al Sharpton? Matthew 7:3 applies here perhaps.

    Reply

  5. Stephen
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 19:00:30

    It’s a fair point, Random. I see from the article that Clinton had spoken to the same group earlier.

    Let me put it this way: if Obama is asked about Sharpton, I hope he denounces and rejects him, the same as he did when he was asked about Farrakhan. Which McCain failed to do when he was asked about Hagee.

    In Obama’s defense, I will say one thing. The black community has had a long struggle for equality, which has generated some extremist spokesmen like Farrakhan and Sharpton.

    Hagee doesn’t speak for a disadvantaged social group. He speaks for white Christians — the dominant class in both cases.

    I don’t mean that as an excuse for cozying up to Farrakhan or Sharpton. But I think it’s legitimate for politicians to stand up for African Americans; and unfortunately standing up for African Americans may involve some degree of association with certain extremist leaders.

    But arm around the shoulders? — nope, I concede that I don’t like it.

    Reply

  6. Random
    Mar 06, 2008 @ 08:36:15

    Thanks for that. I’d just add that personally I’d be inclined to give both candidates a pass on this issue on the principle that politicians, especially in a campaign season, sometimes have to associate with – even smile and have their pictures taken with – the sort of people they wouldn’t necessarily want to invite home for dinner. It’s just how the game is played. Fairness demands that we treat both sides equally though.

    Reply

  7. aaron
    Mar 06, 2008 @ 19:26:01

    Stephen,
    Methinks your headline is misleading. As the commentary you quoted notes, some Republicans are voting for Clinton, and some are voting for Obama (I know one in Texas who did the latter, because while he could live with Obama, his worst-case scenario is Clinton winning). The ones that think Clinton is easier to beat are consistent with the polls, like the one from yesterday showing that Obama has a 12 point lead over McCain, and Clinton has only a 6-point lead. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080306/pl_nm/usa_politics_poll_dc_1;_ylt=AsHsiiY3eQRF8UEqc50XYboE1vAI

    Funny thing is, her experience argument can only hold up against Obama — it backfires against McCain, who has tons more experience than she does. And folks know that McCain has actually accomplished stuff in the Senate — what accomplishments is Clinton known for during her 8 years in the Senate? No, experience may turn out to be a winning argument for her in March and April, but it’s a loser in the general election.

    Reply

  8. Stephen
    Mar 07, 2008 @ 06:39:32

    Aaron:
    You’re right, I could have chosen a better headline. Obama isn’t winning or losing because of Republican votes, and I didn’t mean to imply such a thing. Clinton is winning the majority of Democrat votes, and Obama is making up the difference (and then some) with independent votes. I don’t think Republicans are a big factor one way or the other.

    Nonetheless, the anecdotal evidence persists that some Republicans are voting for Clinton because they would prefer to run against her. A Clinton candidacy remains the Republican Party’s best chance to retain the White House, as Limbaugh and others maintain.

    On the experience argument, I agree completely. I think Obama is a much better choice to run against Republicans, because he’ll present such a clear choice vis-a-vis McCain. They are distinctly different in so many respects.

    Whereas Clinton is going to look like a McCain knock-off — McCain lite — and people will rightly consider voting for the real deal instead of the echo. This is true of her experience argument, national security and maybe other issues, too.

    Reply

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