Monday, February 11, 2008

Is Hillary Clinton running a 20-state strategy?

The nice thing about the Democrat's proportional nomination system is that it's worth fighting to come in a close second. It's far better to lose a state by 3% instead of by 30%. Every state is worth campaigning in, even if it's the opposition's home turf. Yet Senator Clinton has been taking states off the table ever since South Carolina - allowing Obama to defeat her by 20,30, even 50%. The only place Clinton has done as well is in her former home of Arkansas and neighboring Oklahoma.

And now we've got a collection of races that Hillary literally says are not worth winning. (I guess she's not an advocate of Howard Dean's 50-state strategy).
[Hillary Clinton] also downplayed many of Obama's Super Tuesday victories, describing them as states that Democrats should not expect to win in November.

"It is highly unlikely we will win Alaska or North Dakota or Idaho or Nebraska," she said, naming several of Obama's red state wins. "But we have to win Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Michigan … And we've got to be competitive in places like Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma."
Hillary apparently believes that there are solid Democratic states and solid Republican states that aren't even worth competing for during the general election. Instead she'll focus on a few "swing" states (don't ask me how Massachusetts and Texas got on that list).

The electoral vote map from 1964. Democrat Lyndon Johnson won the states in red (see if you can find Alaska, North Dakota, Idaho and Nebraska).

The map above is typical for American presidential elections. In 15 of the 25 elections since 1908, the winner of the presidency won over 75% of the states and over 75% of the delegates. The races in 2000 and 2004 weren't normal; they were aberrations.

This is what the map looked like 8 years before Johnson's win. 43 of 48 states switched sides. The country isn't nearly as polarized as strategists like to believe. "Democratic" states will vote for a Republican and vice versa, but you have to work for it.

The electoral vote map from 1956. Republican Dwight Eisenhower won the states in blue.

I would have given Hillary credit for making a clumsy remark, except her team keeps repeating the theme:
“Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn't won any of the significant states -- outside of Illinois?” Chief Strategist Mark Penn said. “That raises some serious questions about Sen. Obama.”
Insignificant states apparently include Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Washington. Since the Clinton team has already run off to Texas, I'll assume Wisconsin and Hawaii make the list too. And considering what's already on the list, you can make a pretty good case that they believe Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming aren't worth their trouble either.

That's 30 insignificant states.

Is this how she's going to campaign in the general election? Ceding large swaths of "red" America before even starting. This should be a blowout year for the Democratic nominee yet she seems to be dreaming of a 271 electoral vote squeaker.

And to paraphrase the Clinton team, the last time anybody won the presidency with fewer than 20 states was 1888 - and there were only 36 states in the Union at the time.

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