Thursday, April 24, 2008

Exploding the "Primary Win = General Win" Myth

Josh Marshall refutes Hillary's specious claim that only she can win in the general the states she won in the primary.

As Patrick Healy explains (in Thursday's New York Times), it is simply a fallacy to claim that winning a state's Democratic primary means you're more likely to win that state in the general election or that your opponent can't win it.


And it's really not a big mystery that the argument doesn't hold up because it wasn't devised or conceived as an electoral argument. It's a political argument -- one that only really came into operation at the point at which the Clinton campaign realized that it was far enough behind that it's path to the nomination required making the argument to superdelegates that she's elected and Obama is not.

That's not to say there isn't a difference between the two as general election candidates -- at least in their current incarnations. There is. It's just not this big state nonsense. Peter Hart who, for what it's worth is actually part of the same polling firm as Hillary's new pollster/strategist Geoff Garin (though himself not working with either candidate), comes much closer to the mark when he says in the Times article, "Hillary goes deeper and stronger in the Democratic base than Obama, but her challenge is that she doesn't go as wide. Obama goes much further reaching into the independent and Republican vote, and has a greater chance of creating a new electoral map for the Democrats."


Given the spottiness of state by state polls, for now it's best to watch the national popular vote polls, which show the two Democrats basically even in how they'd face McCain. But there are differences. They run better in different parts of the country. But the 'big state' argument is just malarkey, an artifact of the spin necessities of the post-Super Tuesday campaign.

Both Josh and the Times go into a lot more detail about geographic differences, including a pretty depressing analysis of Kentucky by Josh.

Cross-posted at Blue in the Bluegrass.