A nostalgic look at alternate losing strategies

Adam Graham takes issue with a number of popular political myths (notably the idea that Sarah Palin is finished), but what really got my attention was an exit poll he linked that I'd never seen before, which confirms my longstanding belief that Hillary Clinton would have been a much tougher candidate for the Republicans to beat than Barack Obama. I think she still would be, even today.

What I could not understand was why so many Republicans supported Hillary Clinton anyway, and I suspected that they realized something I did not: that Republican defeat was certain (maybe even desirable), and that getting Hillary on the ticket was a form of damage control.

Or was it?

Anyway, here are the poll numbers that intrigued me:

...16 percent of McCain voters said they would have voted for Clinton, the Democrat, if she had been her party's nominee.
That's a lot of people -- certainly enough to have made McCain's defeat one of the biggest defeats in Republican history.

But what about disappointed Obama supporters? Would they have voted for Hillary?

While 85% of Obama voters said they would have voted for Clinton had she been the Democratic candidate, 13% would not have supported her including 6% who said they would have backed McCain and 7% who said they would not have voted.
So, Hillary would have gained for the Democrats 16% of the McCain voters (that's 9,334,987 out of McCain's 58,343,671), and she would have lost 13% of the Obama voters (that's 8,694,690 of Obama's 66,882,230).

Adding in the 6% of the disappointed Obama voters and subtracting the rest who'd have stayed home, here are the final results:

Clinton: (66,882,230 + 9,334,987 - 8,694,690)

Total: 67,522,527 (56.01%)


McCain: (58,343,671 - 9,334,987 + 4,012,934)

Total: 53,021,618 (43.98%)

The new vote total would be 120,544,145 (down from 125,225,901) with Hillary's percentage being 56%, and McCain 44% (a more dramatic difference than Obama's 53% to McCain's 46%).

What irritated me about the pro-Hillary Republican strategy was that I've been around long enough to know that Hillary Clinton would have been harder for McCain to beat than Obama, yet Republicans who damned well knew better kept saying that Hillary would be easier to beat! I suspected they were lying, because they didn't want to admit that the Republicans were doomed no matter what, so supporting Hillary was their way of trying to ameliorate a bad situation by picking the opposition. If they really thought that, why not come out and admit it? Why lie? These same people are not saying now that McCain could have beaten Hillary. Most of them are glad he lost; they just wish he'd lost to someone else.

Of course, the above poll does not take into account the hard core conservatives (Ann Coulter and the like) who would have demonstrated their hard coreness by voted for Hillary Clinton over John McCain. How many of them there were, I don't know, but the whole approach struck me as a wildly extravagant tantrum at the expense of the country.

Speaking of polls, what about Clinton versus Palin? According to a Rasmussen poll taken in September, Hillary was preferred by voters overall, but that could change. Plus, there was a gender gap:

In a head-to-head match-up, [men] prefer Sarah Palin over Clinton 49% to 45% according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Women prefer the former first lady over Palin 57% to 35%.

Voters overall give Clinton the nod 52% to 41% (crosstabs available for Premium Members).

In a hypothetical matchup even now (were such a thing possible), I think Hillary would do better against Sarah Palin than would Barack Obama.

But it has to be borne in mind that there's quite a bit of time between now and 2012, and Barack Obama will do whatever he has to do to ensure his reelection.

Too bad we can't bring back the ideologically easy days when "conservative" simply meant those who supported the war.

But the 2008 election was not about war. Or sex. So, Glenn Reynolds' tried and true adage didn't really come into play:

When the topic is defense, the Democrats lose. When it's sex, the Republicans lose.
For years I assumed the 2008 race was going to be about defense, and the war in Iraq, and right now I'm assuming the 2012 race will be about the economy. This time, the economic issue helped the Democrats mostly because of the incumbency factor. But if they continue to make things worse, the incumbency factor will work against them.

But even if the economy were to pick up, things could change overnight with an international flareup, or a single nuclear bomb (even an Iranian test). If a real war breaks out, God help the Democrats.

And of course, if the war on sex heats up, God help the Republicans. So I can understand why the Democrats would want to do anything they possibly could to make Sarah Palin into some sort of crusading anti-sex warrior (which she is not). So what's with some of the conservatives, anyway? Do they think the war against sex is winnable?

MORE: Writing in the New York Post, Bill Quick looks at Sarah Palin as a presidential candidate, and sees Hillary as an opponent:

If Palin is successful, look for Clinton to resign in preparation for her own presidental bid as "the only Democrat who has a chance to beat Governor Palin."
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric on 07.05.09 at 10:56 AM










Comments

Hillary is still a viable candidate in 2012 - how so? As Secretary of State she has to be the good soldier - she cannot publicly disagree with the President. However, she is no longer in the senate, and, as such, has no voting record on the stimulus bill, cap and trade, health care, etc. These bills are hurting or are going to hurt the economy. If the republicans make significant gains in the 2010 elections and the economy is tanking, I would not be surprised to see Hillary resign as Secretary of State and challenge Obama for the 2012 democrat nomination. She could do this - she could run against Obama's wretched economics and not be linked to any Obama domestic programs. Ted Kennedy challenged Carter in 1980 - why not Hillary in 2012. Of course, as in 1980, all will depend on the economy.

dittybopper   ·  July 5, 2009 12:14 PM

Have you considered the possibility that some of us were considering the good of the nation? I qualify for Clinton Demented Syndrome, but even so I thought that the Republicans would lose to either Clinton or Obama, and that Clinton would be less damaging to the country. She may be a tower of narcissism, but at least she does not actively want to destroy the U.S.

JVDeLong   ·  July 5, 2009 3:36 PM

Hillary has to be thinking, how many years am I willing to give up just to challenge O? Running in 2012 would mean working 24/7 for two years, then I will probably lose anyway.

IMO she will pass and not take on O unless he is astonishingly weak two years from now. Even then it would be a gamble.

Challenging an incumbent President of your own party is a bad bet.

One problem is the length of the campaign. To build your team and be ready for the primaries you have to start at least a year before the election. And it is better to start almost two years before the election.

Meanwhile conditions can change and the President may be far stronger by primary time.

I think Hillary will resign soon and concentrate on making millions of $. She will be doing what Bill did, speaking, consulting, and in effect marketing influence.

K   ·  July 5, 2009 4:57 PM

I hope Governor Palin runs in 2012.

She quit several colleges; she quit as Mayor before her term expired; she quit the Oil commission; she quit her Governorship.

She loves to get in zingers and attack others but she magnifies and draws attention to even the most unread Blogger who rattles her cage

Her children do not finish HS let alone college.

She loves praise and hates to be criticized.

I hope she wins and then when something happens, she quits or tries to get an Amendment to The Constitution making her Princess For Life.

She is a joke and a country that would even think of voting for a whining, self-piteous, quitter-in-chief deserves her.

If we take how touchy all those aging women who sing stupid "We love you Hillary, oh yes we do" Bye-Bye Birdie parodies, all those fall on the floor for Jesus Born Again's, all the horny GOP men like Rich Lowerey who write honestly about how Sarah=Viagra, she has an excellent chance.

The Alaska Hillbillies! Coming Soon to A White House Near You!

tjproudamerican   ·  July 6, 2009 1:09 AM

TJ--

I wouldn't be too proud until I learned that ridicule is not an argument!

Brett   ·  July 6, 2009 7:51 AM

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