Clinton's "Big State" Myth: Why Barack Obama Remains the Most Electable Democrat This Fall

The Clinton Campaign's post March 4th message is to forget about the delegate count and nominate Hillary because she can win the big states Democrats need in November.
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The Clinton Campaign's post March 4th message is to forget about the delegate count and nominate Hillary because she can win the big states Democrats need in November. That argument simply doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Here's why:

1) Most of the "Big States" she has won are not battleground states in the fall. New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California are solid blue states where Obama would do as well or better than Clinton in a general election against McCain.

2) Of the states she's won so far, the big exception to this rule is Ohio. Ohio is in fact a critical battleground state where Hillary has demonstrated that she has a leg up among lower income whites and older voters. But the polling also shows that in a general election, Barack offsets this advantage in Ohio among young voters and college-educated independents. In a McCain-Clinton match up the later group could gravitate heavily to McCain in Ohio.

In an Ohio general election, Obama's ability to attract independents and mobilize young and minority voters will trump Clinton's advantages among non-college whites -- a group that will break heavily for either Barack or Hillary against the "free trade" McCain.

Just remember, in Ohio right now, "national security" is a job. The economy and trade -- not "national security" -- will almost certainly continue to be the overriding issues for non-college whites in Ohio this November.

3) Obama puts in play a panoply of states where Clinton would have a much tougher time. Obama could potentially win Virginia (13 electoral votes), Missouri (11 electoral votes) and even Mississippi (whose population is 40% African American -- 6 electoral votes). He would be considerably more competitive than Clinton in other battleground states like Colorado (9 electoral votes), Iowa (7 electoral votes), Wisconsin (10 electoral votes), Minnesota (10 electoral votes) and Michigan (17 electoral votes). The same goes for New Hampshire (4 electoral votes) -- a state where McCain will work hard to woo independents among whom Obama did much better than Clinton in this year's primary.

4) Even in states where Clinton could make a case for some advantages relative to Obama, these "advantages" are far from certain. Take Florida where she might assert an advantage among Latinos. Florida also has up to 500,000 newly enfranchised ex-felons -- many of whom are African American. The problem with these new voters is mobilization, not persuasion. Getting them registered and voting will be hard. Obama would obviously turn out many more African American mobilizable voters than Clinton. And when it comes to Latino voters, Obama's clear record on immigration contrasts well with McCain who has thrown Latino immigration reform aspirations under the bus in order to pander to his party's right wing.

5) Obama has the one quality that allows him to simultaneously motivate mobilizable base voters and appeal to persuadable independents -- the ability to inspire. This quality allows him to broaden the appeal of his candidacy to swing voters. At the same time it allows him to expand the electorate with new young and African American voters who otherwise simply wouldn't vote. Clinton is the anti-inspiration candidate. She will have a much harder time both expanding the electorate and appealing to swing voters. Obama's ability to inspire -- by itself -- makes him a much stronger general election candidate.

6) Finally, let's remember that the base of the Republican Party -- cultural conservatives -- is not so wild about McCain. They are accepting McCain with about as much enthusiasm as children take cough medicine. They know they need him, but they really aren't happy about it. The one thing that could energize the Republican base is their inveterate hatred for Hillary Clinton. Clinton would mobilize right-wing base voters the same way that hatred for Bush motivated Democrats in 2006. Why should we help galvanize the Republican base by nominating Hillary Clinton when we have another great choice?

All of these factors are born out in the consistent survey results that show Obama polls six to ten points better than Clinton against John McCain.

Clinton will have a difficult to impossible time winning the pledged delegate battle. Her only path to the nomination is convincing Super Delegates that she is the most electable. That dog won't hunt.

Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist and author of the new book Listen to Your Mother: Stand Up Straight. How Progressives Can Win. The book is available at

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