Almost 5 months ago, I wrote a diary explaining that Hillary Clinton was indeed an electable candidate for the presidency. Much has changed since that time: John McCain resuscitated his campaign and is now the presumptive nominee on the Republican side, while Clinton and Barack Obama continue to battle for the Democratic nomination - although it is becoming increasingly likely that Obama will be the nominee. I decided to do a quick-and-dirty assessment of potential general election results would be if either Obama or Clinton were the nominee against McCain.
The results? Barack Obama would defeat by a large margin in the Electoral College - more than 100 electoral votes - while Hillary Clinton would barely clear the 270 electoral votes required - and that is by giving her the benefit of the doubt in Pennsylvania, where current polling shows her in a statistical tie with McCain. Follow me below the fold...
By my count, Barack Obama wins easily: he gains 322 electoral votes to John McCain's 216 electoral votes. Not all of these states have been polled, of course. That being said, I have taken the liberty of assigning states to either of the candidates based on historical performance. The only ones which I have colored in based on poll numbers are below:
Obama is winning in a lot of swing states, and this allows us to win a decisive vote in the Electoral College (and undoubtedly the popular vote as well) without winning a single state in the South besides Virginia. By winning a couple of the interior Western states (NV, NM, and CO) and extending our grip on the Midwest, this will lead to an easy victory for Obama. Below is the math for the Electoral College calculation.
When I do a matchup of Hillary Clinton against John McCain, the field becomes much more daunting: by my estimates, she only garners 277 electoral votes to McCain's 261. This is a generous count as well: I gave Arkansas to Clinton - not based on polling data, but because of her history as First Lady of the state. Furthermore, I have given her Pennsylvania as well, even though she is behind in the referenced poll (see below). All in all, it's a much tighter map. Here are the same state-specific polls that I used above for the Clinton-McCain matchup:
As one can tell, the situation with Clinton as the nominee is much more tenuous. States which flip in big ways for McCain when Clinton is the nominee include Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, and Wisconsin. We also lose Virginia, making it a shutout again in the South. Clinton does outperform Obama noticeably in Ohio, as well as slightly in Missouri and Florida. However, she is also much closer to McCain in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, where the polls currently show her in a dead heat with McCain. I gave her the state because I can't fathom the Keystone State going to a Republican - especially after the 2006 blowout wins by Ed Rendell and Bob Casey statewide - but anything is possible. In this scenario, the electoral votes count up as follows:
In this scenario, even taking away Arkansas (which is not a sure bet by far) would only have Clinton winning by the slimmest of margins. Any additional losses - such as New Hampshire - would cause her to lose the race.
In mid-to-late 2007, it was easy to state that Hillary Clinton was electable. Given that McCain was nearly broke and under the radar screen, just about everyone did well against the other possibilities (Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee, and so forth). However, in the race as it is constituted now, a Clinton-McCain showdown will force us to play defense on turf that should be ours (such as Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), while Obama would expand the playing field and would allow us to play offense in historically red states (such as Kansas and Virginia, both of which have not voted Democratic at the presidential level since LBJ's 1964 landslide) while locking up large margins in swing states.
Simply put, at this point, Barack Obama is - dare I say it - the more 'electable' candidate for the Democratic nomination.