Electability: Why Hillary Is More Likely to Beat McCain
Bump and Update: The AP reports superdelegates are not feeling bound by primary results, but more concerned about electability. And the International Herald Tribune says McCain's new strategy is to go after the toss-up states.
There's no question that superdelegates will consider electability as a factor in deciding whether to vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Based on this analysis by long-time Democratic party activist William Arnone, which I return to again and again for the numbers, here's what I think they need to look at:
- Who can best hold on to the 20 states the Dems won in 2004? Which candidate is more likely to put these states at risk in a battle with John McCain?
- Which candidate has the better chance of winning states that voted Republican in 2004 but are now seen as vulnerable for McCain?
- Which candidate has a better chance of getting the votes of four key constituencies that could carry the election for McCain?
Answers below: [More...]
In 2004, the Dems carried 20 states with 252 electoral votes. It wasn't enough. In 2008, the Dems need to carry these states again, plus pick up others. How can they do it?
First, we need to figure out which of the 20 states are vulnerable to McCain and decide whether Hillary or Obama has a better chance of carrying them. Mr. Arnone says those states are: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon and Wisconsin, which have a total of 68 electoral votes.
Next are the ten states the Dems didn't win in 2004 that there's a chance of winning in 2008. They are: Arkansas; Colorado; Florida; Iowa; Missouri; Nevada; New Mexico; North Carolina; Ohio; and Virginia. Of these, all but North Carolina have already voted. Mr. Arnone says:
The winner of the popular vote in the Democratic primary or caucus in each of these key states will have a higher likelihood of carrying that state in November. This is a critical consideration in determining who is likely to be the Party's most successful Presidential candidate in the general election.
Thus far, Hillary Clinton has won five of these key states -- Arkansas (decisively), Florida (decisively, but in a primary that was not recognized by the Democratic National Committee for the purpose of selecting delegates to the Party's convention), Nevada (solidly), New Mexico (slightly), and Ohio (solidly). Barack Obama has won four -- Colorado (decisively), Iowa (solidly), Missouri (slightly), and Virginia (decisively). Clinton's popular vote total in these keys states was 3,179,630 (2,314,531 if Florida's vote is excluded), or 52.7%, vs. Obama's 2,852,885 (2,281,552 if Florida's vote is excluded), or 47.3%.
Of these states, Clinton's five have a total of 63 electoral votes, while Obama's four have a total of 40 electoral votes.
Together with all of the 20 states that went Democratic in the 2004 Presidential election, both Clinton's and Obama's key states would have enough electoral votes to give the Democratic Presidential ticket victory in November.
This brings the equation back to not being able to lose any of the 20 states Dems won in 2004 to McCain. How do Dems prevent that?
There are four key constituencies the Dems need to win in 2008. They are: Catholic voters, older voters, women voters and Hispanic/Latino voters. Here is Mr. Arnone's analysis:
Of those who voted in the 2004 elections, 27% were Catholic. With Catholic voters, the Republican Presidential ticket in 2004 had a margin of 5%. This was a shift of 7 percentage points from the Democratic Presidential ticket’s margin of 2% in 2000.
The last Presidential election in which the Democratic ticket lost the Catholic voter to the Republican ticket was in 1988 (Dukakis-Bentsen vs. Bush-Quayle), when the margin of loss was also 5%. The Democratic Presidential ticket of Clinton-Gore in 1992 and 1996 carried the Catholic vote by margins of 9% and 16% respectively.
Except for the 2000 election, every Presidential ticket in recent history that has won the Catholic vote has captured the Presidency.
- Older voters:
Voters age 60 or older represented 24% of those voting in the 2004 election. Of these, voters age 65 or older represented 19% of those voting in the 2004 election. ....Of voters age 65 or older, 77% are registered to vote. This represents a higher voter registration percentage than any other age group.
Beginning with the 1976 Presidential election, people age 65 or older have constituted a larger share of actual voters than their portion of the total voting-age population. In the 2004 and 2000 Presidential elections, voters age 65 or older had turnouts of 69% and 67% respectively, which were the highest turnout rates among all age groups.
In 2004, the Democratic ticket nationwide lost voters age 60 or older to the Republican ticket by a margin of 8%. This was a shift of 12 percentage points from the Democratic Presidential ticket’s margin of 4% in 2000. The Democratic ticket’s margin of loss among voters age 65 or older was 5%. The greater margin of loss among voters age 60 or older was due to the Republican ticket winning the votes of those aged 60-64 by a 15% margin. Among older white voters in 2000, however, the Republican ticket had a margin of 6%.
More white older voters have backed the Republican Presidential ticket in seven of the last eight Presidential campaigns. Of those age 65 or older, 81% are white.
....The last Presidential election in which the Democratic ticket lost older voters to the Republican ticket was in 1988 (Dukakis-Bentsen vs. Bush-Quayle), when the margin of loss was 1%.
In every Presidential election since 1980, a gender gap has existed. Women have more often supported Democratic candidates, while men have more often supported Republican candidates. In recent Presidential elections, the gap has ranged from 4% to 11%. In 1992, women voters supported the Democratic Presidential ticket in larger numbers than men by 4%. In the 2000 election, the Democratic ticket won the women's vote by 11%.
Of the voters nationwide who are men, the Republican Presidential ticket in 2004 had a margin of 11%, which was the same margin as in 2000. Of the voters nationwide who are women, the Democratic Presidential ticket in 2004 had a margin of 3%. This represented a shift of 8 percentage points to the Republican Presidential ticket from the Democratic ticket’s margin among women voters in 2000.
This decrease in the margin of women voting for the Democratic Presidential ticket may have been the single most important factor in the outcome of the 2004 Presidential election. This gender gap is seen in all age groups, ranging from a 4% Democratic margin among women voters under age 30 to 11% among women voters over age 60.
While women tend to vote more Democratic and men more Republican, even larger differences exist between married and unmarried voters. Women of voting age who have never been married, are divorced or are widowed comprise 42% of all registered women voters. In the 2000 Presidential election, unmarried women voters represented the same percentage of the electorate as Jewish, African-American, and Hispanic/Latino voters combined.
...Of married women overall, 55% voted for the Republican Presidential ticket in 2004. Of married women with children, 59% voted for the Republican ticket in 2004. Approximately 60% of single women voted for the Democratic ticket in 2004. The Democratic Presidential ticket, however, has carried the unmarried segment of the electorate in every election since 1988.
Hispanic/Latino voters comprise 6% of the voting population nationwide. This represents an increase of 2% since 2000. With 13% of the total population and 17% of the population under age 18, Hispanics/Latinos are potentially the fastest-growing segment of the electorate. In 2004, the Democratic ticket nationwide won Hispanic/Latino voters by a margin of 11%. This was a shift to the Republican Party of 25 percentage points from the Democratic Presidential ticket’s margin of 36% in 2000.
...The 2004 Presidential election represented a continuing trend of Hispanic/Latino voters away from the Democratic ticket. The 44% share of the Hispanic/Latino vote achieved by the 2004 Republican Presidential ticket surpassed the previous high of 37% for the 1984 Republican Presidential ticket (Reagan-Bush).
....the Republican Presidential ticket in 2004 won a greater share of the Hispanic/Latino vote than any other Republican Presidential ticket since the advent of Presidential election exit polls in 1972.
In the 2006 Congressional elections, Hispanic/Latino voters voted for Democratic candidates by a 19% margin. This represented a shift to the Democratic Party of 8 percentage points from 2004.
....There is diversity among Hispanic/Latino voters nationwide. About two-thirds have roots in Mexico. The remainder includes voters with roots in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and other parts of Latin and South America.
Mr. Arnone's conclusion: Hillary is better able to win these four critical groups.
In the states that have held primaries/caucuses thus far, Clinton has proven to be more attractive to each of these four segments than Obama.
What makes these four segments critical to the Democratic Party's chances in November?
Unlike African-Americans or younger voters who have voted steadfastly for the Democratic Presidential ticket in recent elections, Catholics, Hispanics-Latinos, older voters and women have tended to vote less Democratic in recent Presidential elections. In the 2004 Presidential election, the Democratic Party suffered significant losses of support among each of these four critical constituent groups.
Superdelegates can decide who to vote for up to the last minute. They can change their mind at the last minute. They can vote according to whatever factors they deem most important.
The most important factor for superdelegates in my mind right now, given how close the candidates are in vote totals is which candidate has the best chance of winning in November.
Using the factors laid out by Mr. Arnone, that candidate is Hillary Clinton.
I'll add that for me, it may be as simple as which candidate has a better chance of bringing home Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania in November. I think that candidate is Hillary Clinton.
From a numbers perspective, who do you see as more electable and why?
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