Thursday, February 28, 2008

Primary Calculus

One of those now-infamous Superdelegates emailed the other day asking for thoughts on who to vote for at the DNC convention, and received something much like this:

The outcome of this election will come down to turnout. The large primary turnout so far is no
no indicator of success. The question for us is who is the most likely Democrat to win against John McCain? As much as we wish it were different, a candidate’s qualifications do us no good if they are not able to win.

Regardless of the Democrats’ candidate, John McCain is a negative for GOP turnout. The GOP’s base may not come out to vote for McCain, but they will come out in force to vote against Hillary Clinton. A Clinton nomination is a gift to a discouraged Republican base. It in no small measure erases McCain’s negatives and gives the GOP a fighting chance against us, as early polls show. It’s less clear that Clinton’s appeal to women voters is strong enough to pull GOP women to vote for her in numbers large enough to offset that.

The word from the streets suggests that the GOP base will not come out in the same numbers to vote against Barack Obama, an African-American Democrat, and in fact may simply stay home. Disaffected Republicans may even cross over to vote for him, fewer for Clinton.

Two days in a row this week, Sen. McCain tried to call down more exuberant members of his party for written and verbal attacks on Sen. Barack Obama. The hard Right will declare open season on Clinton if she's nominated. That's a given. But worse for both McCain and the GOP,
these not-so-rogue elements spoon fed on Limbaugh, Drudge, Savage, Beck, Coulter, etc. will publicly expose the unflattering underbelly of the GOP in a way McCain and party leaders will be unable to contain or disguise. Whatever McCain may say, faced with the Democrats' first African-American presidential candidate, creatures of the GOP's own making will unwittingly aid Democrats and alienate droves of minority voters this year and for years to come.

On the Democratic side a critical question is, what will conservative Democrats do? If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, most will vote for her. But this may not offset the increased GOP performance generated by a Clinton nomination. A few Reagan Democrats may cross over to vote for McCain, but they will not stay home in a Clinton-McCain match-up.

If Barack Obama is the Democrats’ nominee, some conservative Democrats will vote for John McCain, as they would in a Clinton-McCain race. But since many registered Democrats in WNC tend to vote Republican in federal elections anyway, is not a net negative for Democratic performance.

Also heard on the streets, rather than vote for an African-American for president or for McCain, some Reagan Democrats will simply stay home, lowering Democratic performance.

The variables in this election season calculation will give fits to Las Vegas odds makers -- too many to manage. In the end, however, the Democrat/Republican performance ratio will favor an Obama candidacy, as early polls on a McCain match-up already show. In an election year in which voters are inclined to “turn the page,” Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton isn't a winning formula for Democratic success here or nationwide.

Then there is the "wow" factor an Obama candidacy has already generated. As the Democratic Party experiences a slow changing of the guard, engaging new, young voters generated by Obama’s candidacy is an opportunity for party building Democrats cannot afford to miss. We have a party to build and they want to help build it. Let’s welcome them by nominating a leader from a new generation.

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