Hillary Clinton's General Election Strength
by Todd Beeton, Wed May 28, 2008 at 12:27:34 PM EDT
Bill Clinton has been claiming on the stump, essentially, that folks want to push Hillary out because she "is winning the general" while Barack is not. Well, as you can see from the GE electoral maps above, that's not entirely true, although, surprisingly, it is if you look at national tracking polls.
According to Gallup, Hillary Clinton is beating John McCain by 4 points, while John McCain is beating Barack Obama by 1 point. This dynamic has been fairly consistent for the last 4 days and in fact, even as Barack has consistently polled ahead of Hillary for the Democratic nomination (today he's up 50-44), she has continued to poll better than he has against John McCain.
Rasmussen finds the very same phenomenon. Today, Clinton is up just 1 point over John McCain while McCain is up 4 points over Obama. All while Barack beats Hillary by 4 points for the nomination.
Throughout this nomination process, the Democratic candidate with the momentum at any given point has typically polled better against McCain in general election match-ups. Not so lately. As you can see, in both national tracking polls, Hillary Clinton performs exactly 5 points better against John McCain than Barack Obama does. This is especially ironic since Hillary's relative strength against McCain in GE match-ups corresponds with the widely held view that Barack has essentially clinched the nomination. People don't seem to have gotten that memo.
So, is this enough for Clinton to base a claim that she is the better general election candidate? After all, presidents are not elected on a national basis, but rather state by state. Clinton likes to make the case that her stronger performance against Barack in important states in the primaries will translate to a stronger performance in those states in the general. But is that true and could it serve as a compelling argument to superdelegates? Gallup's latest analysis of its tracking poll results has some interesting findings that lend some credence to Hillary's claim.
"In the 20 states where Hillary Clinton has claimed victory in the 2008 Democratic primary and caucus elections (winning the popular vote), she has led John McCain in Gallup Poll Daily trial heats for the general election over the past two weeks of Gallup Poll Daily tracking by 50% to 43%. In those same states, Barack Obama is about tied with McCain among national registered voters, 45% to 46%.
"In contrast, in the 28 states and the District of Columbia where Obama has won a higher share of the popular vote against Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries and caucuses, there is essentially no difference in how Obama and Clinton each fare against McCain. Both Democrats are statistically tied with him for the fall election."
Gallup goes on:
The question is, do Clinton's popular victories over Obama in states that encompass three-fifths of national voters mean Clinton has a better chance than Obama of winning electoral votes this fall?
Clinton appears to have the stronger chance of capitalizing on her primary strengths in the general election.
But it's not quite that cut and dried. There are many blue states that either Democrat would win and many red ones that neither would. So what about the swing states, which is where the election will be won or lost?
However, just focusing on the swing states in Clinton's and Obama's respective win columns, the two are fairly similar. Clinton beats McCain in her purple states (including Florida and Michigan) by 49% to 43%, while Obama slightly trails McCain (43% to 46%) in these states -- a nine-point swing in the gap in Clinton's favor. Conversely, Obama beats McCain in his purple states (49% to 41%), while Clinton trails McCain by one point, 45% to 46%, in the same states -- also a nine-point swing in the gap in Obama's favor.
Certainly on some level, these results bolster Hillary Clinton's claim that her strength in certain states in the primary would translate to the general, but any analysis like this must be tempered a bit by the reality that general election match-ups this far out from election day are of questionable validity. But the fact remains that the polls do test apples to apples and one must wonder why, even as her chances for the nomination dwindle, Hillary Clinton continues to out-perform Barack Obama against John McCain fairly dramatically. Certainly it defies most conventional wisdom about Hillary Clinton's electability vis a vis Barack Obama's and it would appear to pour a big bucket of cold water on the claims that Barack was the one who would transform the electoral map. But in the end, I don't think these results will do much to sway superdelegates much when it comes to declaring support for once all states have voted. But I would hope that the Obama campaign is taking these results to heart and is perhaps coming to the same conclusion that I have: that if they really want to achieve electoral transformation, putting Hillary Clinton on the ticket is probably the best way to achieve it.
Update [2008-5-28 18:30:0 by Todd Beeton]:I fast-forwarded through much of yesterday's Hardball but a friend of mine tells me that Chuck Todd's theory is that because McCain and Obama have been trading barbs lately, their negatives are driving up, allowing Clinton to skate unscathed. That's a pretty difficult theory to stick to, it seems to me, after the last several days, but it might have some merit.