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Thursday, March 8, 2007

On 800 Pound Gorillas, Or, Wanna Win This Thing?

I don’t usually make direct statements without some qualifications, but I believe I can safely say that unless Gore gets in the race, we have our 3 choices on the D side, and that’s about it.

I’m looking at a March 8th American Research Group poll suggesting no candidate other than Clinton, Obama, and Edwards currently attracts more than 2% of likely D primary voters. That same poll shows Clinton and Obama statistically tied (34 and 31%, respectively, with a 4% margin of error).

Rasmussen reports 34/26/15% for the same three, in the same order, on March 5th, and reported a 3% Clinton slip from the previous week. (Most likely voters, 4% margin of error.)

An average of polls shows about 36/25/12, with Obama moving sharply upward.

Unfortunately for Hillary, her trend is going the wrong way-a Quinnipiac poll taken February 13th-19th, asking “for whom would you vote today?” showed her at 38%/23%/6% (Clinton/Obama/Edwards, 3.8% margin of error).

Unless somebody does something more severe in their lives than Giuliani has done so far, the top three seems pretty much in place.

Our conversation yesterday addressed the Puppy Factor (for those who missed it, I posit that a percentage of the voting public will not, for any reason, vote for Clinton), and its effect on Hillary. The entirely unscientific poll connected to the diary suggests the Puppy Factor is real, and, if in any way applicable to the larger public, that big trouble lies ahead for the Senator.

John Kerry had to lose a Presidential election before he realized he was of more value in the Senate, and I worry that Clinton’s lack of electability could put us in the same boat in ’08.

Ds have a unique advantage this election cycle-gap voters are falling into the D camp in far stronger numbers than ever before.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s Charlie Cook:

But the real jaw dropper is when independents are asked which party they lean toward. This is important because historically, independents who lean toward a party tend to vote almost as consistently for that party as those who identify themselves with the party. There are just some people who like to call themselves independents but, functionally speaking, are really partisans.

In this category of leaners, Democrats had an advantage of 1.3 points in 2001. The parties were within the margin of error in 2002, when four-tenths of a point separated them and in 2003, when there was just a one-tenth of a point difference.
In 2004, Democrats had a 2.7 point advantage, and it grew to 4.4 points in 2005.

But in 2006, this category exploded to a 10.2-point advantage for Democrats: 50.4 percent for Democrats, 40.2 percent for Republicans. The remaining 9.4 percent did not lean toward either party.

This 10.2-point advantage is the biggest lead either party has had since Gallup began tracking the leaners in 1991.

And there’s the 800 pound gorilla-the candidate with the most money, the deepest connections, and a politically brilliant President to offer her counsel is not likely to win, nor is she likely to go home quietly.

Why do I think Hillary is in so much trouble, besides this very rudimentary polling analysis? Because I saw both the Selma speeches. In their entirety. And to be blunt, Clinton looked disconnected, forced, and, well...fake.

Obama, on the other hand-comfortable, strong, accessible-he just looked exactly like a President. And his ability to “preach” better than Hillary will get him a piece of the “Joe Wood” vote. And it’ll drive Conservatives nuts.

Edwards, who I admire, has yet to take off. But he is a white male, and history suggests white males win, so I wouldn’t discount him too quickly. Unfortunately, while trending upward currently, he’s less popular now in the average of polls than he was in 2005.

So these days, here’s what I’m wondering: there will come a point, if trends continue, where it will be time for Hillary to go. This poses two questions:

1) How can Hillary be convinced to gracefully step aside and let Obama and Edwards work it out? Options include Hillary as a Vice President (then run in 2012 or ‘16?), or convincing her to become an activist Senator in an all-D Executive and Legislative environment.
2) Edwards and Obama, or Obama and Edwards?

I’d prefer Hillary in the Senate more than VP, but that’s mainly because of math- Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, all in office, is better than any two of the same group being in office. And then there’s the Puppy Factor. Even as VP-which I’m not convinced she wants-she has a good chance, in my opinion, of hurting the D opportunity to win this thing.

Her Senate Committee memberships currently are Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; the Special Committee on Aging; and on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Her biography also reports she’s the only Senate member of the Transformation Advisory Group to the Joint Forces Command.

So a deal to convince her to stay in the Senate might include a juicy Armed Services Subcommittee chairmanship, and more juice in force transformation (10th Mountain Division is New York based, so it helps her long-term at home); and additionally, a conversation about term limits and how they don’t apply in the Senate, but do at the White House.

With a good deal in place, Clinton should still remain a motivated D evangelist, and might choose to fundraise and spend in support of D causes.

The Clinton supporters will want to see what the February “national primary” has to say, but the current trends suggest next year may be too late-that opinions might have hardened before votes are cast.

So what about question 2?

At this point, I suggest more people around here can articulate an understanding of Edwards’ positions more easily than Obama’s, but I suspect that will become more even as Obama’s campaign gets into gear.

Obama, on the other hand, has come out of nowhere, quickly, in a way Edwards has not. He’s, ironically, filling the “Great Looking Guy” brand that Edwards occupied in ’04, and he has a great television presence. His lack of specificity on issues might or might not hurt him-we shall see. (No positions means fewer enemies, but I suspect he’ll want to express himself, and that often leads to positions, which leads to opposition...)

Perhaps the best answer to question 2 is: wait and see.

If Gore stays out, I would suggest that, just like Iraq, Edwards probably has 6 to 8 months to move into a position to seriously consider Obama as his VP. Otherwise, Obama/Edwards could be pretty tough to beat.

So there we are. Sometime between now and January we might have to have a deal in place, and by the third week of February the nomination race might well be over.

Let’s hope this time it’s the Republicans who tear each other apart.

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