Clinton Remains a “Dogged But Deluded Also-Ran”

It appears that everyone except for Hillary Clinton and her more fanatic supporters realize that for all practical purposes the nomination battle is over and Barack Obama has won. AP describes Clinton as a “dogged but deluded also-ran.” She has yet one more ridiculous argument in considering West Virginia a test, thinking that a win in a state where she is expected to win will somehow make people forget that Obama has already won more delegates, states, and votes than she does.

Just as Clinton is continuing to argue that certain states (i.e. those she did not win) do not count, she is also arguing that winning the black vote does not count. In an interview with USA Today, Clinton said:

“I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

Clinton dug an even deeper hole during the same interview when she justified her concentration on white voters by saying, “These are the people you have to win if you’re a Democrat in sufficient numbers to actually win the election. Everybody knows that.” What’s next? Will argue that blacks only county as three-fifths of a person and recalculate all the primary results to to make herself the winner on this basis?

There’s already been plenty of discussion of the racial implications of this interview around the blogosphere today. Simply looking at this as a matter of political strategy her argument does not hold up very well. No More Mister Nice Blog notes:

According to CNN’s 1996 exit poll, Bill Clinton lost the white vote (Dole 46%, Clinton 43%, Perot 9%). He lost the white male vote by an even larger margin (Dole 49%, Clinton 38%, Perot 11%). And he lost gun owners badly (Dole 51%, Clinton 38%, Perot 10%). However, Clinton won the popular vote overall 49%-41%-8%, and he won 70% of the electoral votes.

In 2000 — when Al Gore won the popular vote by half a million votes — he lost white males to Bush by a whopping 60%-36%, according to CNN’s exit poll. He lost men overall 53%-42%. He lost whites overall 54%-42%. He lost gun owners 61%-36%. He lost small-town voters 59%-38% and rural voters 59%-37%. He lost the Midwest overall 49%-48%.

Democrats should certainly hope to do better than this, but this does demonstrate the weakness of Clinton’s argument. What Clinton ignores in claiming to be more electable is that her support which is largely based upon the backing of the elderly and the uneducated is hardly a blue print for long term victory. Even if we take the most benign possible interpretation of Clinton’s argument, it remains flawed if she is discounting the black vote because they consistently vote Democratic. If it is a weakness to only bring in safe Democratic voters such as the black vote, Clinton suffers from this problem far more than Obama.

Obama’s support goes well beyond the black vote which normally votes Democratic. He brings in the young voters and independent voters to add to the Democratic base, while Clinton’s support is merely a subset of the Democratic base. Most of these core Democratic voters who back Clinton will continue to vote Democratic regardless of who wins the nomination, while the new voters backing Obama will be far less likely to turn out for Clinton.

Clinton has been claiming that her greater strength among working class voters makes her more electable, but fails to understand that her turn to populism has been counterproductive. She has picked up more working class votes, but these voters are going to back Obama over McCain. However, in deriding the affluent, educated voters who support Obama she has guaranteed that most will either stay home in November or vote for McCain. Democrats can only win a national election when they have a candidate who can win the support of both wings of the party. Obama can do this, but Clinton cannot.

Karen Tumulty listed The Five Mistakes Clinton Made. She writes that Clinton made “at least five big mistakes, each of which compounded the others.” All five listed by Tumulty are significant, and well worth reading in full, but as she acknowledges there are others. These include the failure to understand the need extend her base beyond long time Democratic voters. Another mistake (which is closely related to Tumulty’s first Clinton mistake) was to fail to understand that running a dishonest and negative campaign not only would not be effective but acts to make Democrats see even more reason to back Obama. The dishonesty of the Clinton/Bush Dynasty made Obama a viable candidate this year, and resorting to Rove style politics guaranteed that Obama would win the nomination.

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