Thursday, November 13, 2008


I'm as skeptical as Nate Silver is about this:

As voters left the polls on Election Day, many were asked how they would have voted if the election match-up were between Hillary Clinton and John McCain rather than Barack Obama and McCain. 52 percent said they would have backed the former Democratic candidate; 41 percent would have voted for McCain, wider than Obama’s 7-point margin over McCain.

Nate gives the basic reason:

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

Nate runs through several of the implications of that, but let's just focus on this:

And what would Clinton's numbers have looked like after the Republicans had gotten done accusing her of being a socialist, a puppet for her husband, and an all-around conniving you-know-what?

I'd add: What would Clinton's numbers have looked like if the Republicans hadn't spent several months actually praising her once the delegate math meant she wouldn't be the nominee? Nothing of the sort would have happened if she'd had a chance at the nomination. It would have been all attacks, all the time (especially once Steve Schmidt got hold of the McCain campaign).

So many variables are unknown. Are we talking about a Hillary who handily beat Barack Obama (and thus never got around to fully developing the working-class-heroine persona)? Are we talking about a Hillary who won a bitter contest with Obama? Would it have been a Clinton-Obama ticket (in which case many of the attacks we saw would have come anyway), or would Obama have been rejected as a running mate (and would that have made black voters less willing to stand in line all day to vote in precincts with too few voting machines)?

Would have Hillary have tacked more to the center and right than Obama? Would McCain have proposed a series of town halls to her, and would she have taken him up on the offer -- and if so, would he have proved as inept in front of a crowd that wasn't fully on his side as he did in the town hall debate with Obama ... or would it have seemed that Clinton was coopted by McCain?

We could go on and on. We know it would have been a nasty race, and we almost seem to have forgotten just how nasty Republicans used to be to both Hillary and Bill. Hillary would have won, I think, but it's impossible to say whether it would have been by more or less.

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