Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hillary Clinton Didn't Beat Nobody

It’s a strange day when Karl Rove and The Nation are talking the same line.

The following is from the article, “Rove: Top Dems Can Be Defeated”:

“Rove cited the results of Tuesday's primary in Michigan, where Clinton was the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot and received 55 percent of the votes, with 40 percent voting "uncommitted."
"She's running against nobody, and nobody gets 40 percent of the vote," Rove quipped.”

An editorial from The Nation, “Michigan’s Ominous Message for Hillary Clinton,” rightly claims that when leading candidates in a primary face no opponent with a serious chance of winning the general election, they tend to take home 90% of the primary vote. They cite the examples of George W. Bush’s wins in the 2004 Republican primaries, and Bill Clinton’s primary wins in 1996. They then disingenuously compare Hillary Clinton’s 55 – 60 % take of the vote there earlier in the week as evidence that she lacks support.

It’s being willfully obtuse to imagine that the current primary season at all resembles the 2004 Republican primaries or the 1996 Democratic primaries. What was strange about Michigan this year was the absence of Barack Obama and John Edwards from the Democratic ballot, which meant that Clinton wasn’t running against nobody, and those who voted “uncommitted” weren’t voting or supporting nobody.

Obviously, many, if not most, of the “uncommitted” voters were Edwards or Obama supporters, though we can’t be sure what percentage would have gone to which candidate had they been on the ballot.

Some voters may have been genuinely uncommitted.

Here is where Karl Rove and The Nation are using the same line for quite different ends. Many Republican voters are uncommitted this year because they don’t really support any of the candidates (see “The GOP’s ‘Fusionism’”). Many Democrats are currently uncommitted because they have conflicting support for more than one candidate, a very different situation. I myself am currently undecided about who I’ll vote for in the Florida primary in less than two weeks, not because I haven’t been paying attention, but because I’m torn between three leading candidates, none of whom are perfect, all of whom seem eminently electable and a far cry from what we’ve put up with under Bush.

Rove is trying to drum up support for a notion that all the Democrats are beatable, that even leading candidates like Clinton really have little support. The Nation seems to be simply taking an anti-Hillary editorial line. There are some good reasons for this. For example, see this other editorial from The Nation about electoral shenanigans in Nevada, “Clinton Allies Suppress the Vote in Nevada.” It’s just that in the particular case of “Michigan’s Ominous Message” the publication has taken an unsavory tack (and really distorted the truth) to come out against Hillary.

Note: I had intended to post the second half of my favorite books of 2007 list today until I encountered the news article and editorial I respond to here. I’ll post the second half of the book list tomorrow.

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