To: Interested Parties
From: Mark Penn, Chief Strategist
Date: Wednesday, February 06, 2008
RE: A New Day
Americans in the twenty-two states that voted on Super Tuesday strongly reaffirmed their desire for a serious, substantive candidate who hears their voices and will deliver solutions to the challenges facing the country, especially the deteriorating economy and the healthcare crisis. It is Hillary Clinton who is seen as being both ready to be commander in chief on day one and is ready to deal with the big challenges we face as a nation.
Yesterday’s results confirmed Hillary’s strengths as a candidate and signaled that she made inroads with a number of key groups and demographics. As we look through the returns and the exits, there are a number of myth-busters that stand out:
a) Hillary can and does do well in rural areas. In Missouri, for example, she won 110 of 115 counties, including a string of rural areas.
b) Hillary can win the youth vote. Hillary swept the youth vote in California and Massachusetts, two states that can be a bellwether for how young people will vote in the general election.
c) Hillary had the momentum on the last day. After the largest national town hall in presidential history, voters who went into the polls undecided chose Hillary, breaking the momentum of Obama’s new establishment campaign. Details here.
d) The Gallup tracking showed a national upturn going into Tuesday, suggesting that it is not that Sen. Obama keeps closing in the polls but that he has bursts of momentum that fade when voters compare the two candidates on who is ready and able to make the changes we need starting on day one.
As we saw in New Hampshire, Sen. Obama was unable to close the deal with voters. After a week of wall-to-wall coverage of the Obama campaign’s big endorsements, money, and Superbowl ads, Hillary Clinton scored strong wins in big states throughout the country and is winning the popular vote. The margins in these big states were strong – Massachusetts by 15, California by 10, New York by 17, NJ by 10, Oklahoma 24, Tennessee 13. Polls predicting losses or close races turned out to be wrong when the actual votes were counted in these states.
Sen. Obama, in contrast, won with large margins in Alabama and Georgia, two states that have been in the Republican column in the last two elections. He also won with large margins in a string of caucus states with comparatively fewer voters – Alaska, Idaho, Utah, and Kansas – and have also been in the Republican column. Of course, he won his home state
If the Democratic Party used a "winner-take-all" system, Hillary Clinton would be en route to being the nominee given the pattern of her victories. But the proportional delegate system keeps this contest going with two candidates who have significant support.
We predicted we would be ahead in delegates overall and we are ahead in delegates overall.
As super-delegates consider which candidate to support, they will be looking at which one candidate has a base and can win the big states, including the crucial swing constituencies. We believe the impressive wins in NY, CA, MA, MI, FL, NJ, AZ suggest that Hillary is the one who can motivate a strong turnout in November. Several civil rights activists have recently written to Howard Dean to ask him to work out a solution to count the votes cast in FL and MI before the convention. More people voted in the Florida Democratic presidential primary (1.7 million) than in any other except CA.
In 2004, the Republicans peeled off close to 40% of the Latinos and many women concerned about national security – two groups that were pivotal in the 2004 general election. Catholics were another group Hillary swept that Democrats lost in 2004. The states and her strong diverse coalition of support presents a powerful case to the superdelegates looking at who can beat John McCain.
The clock is also running out on Sen. Obama’s venue of choice – the caucus. There are only five remaining caucuses, the last one in early March. Hillary, on the other hand, has excelled in the large state primaries – the states that will have the most impact come November. Although the remaining February map will favor Obama, the remaining three large primary states -- Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania -- are states with a lot of delegates, strong support from elected officials there (governors of Ohio and PA), and who see Hillary as the candidate with the solutions to the problems they face.
Rather than accept the debate challenge we have made to talk about the issues, Sen. Obama last night launched attacks. We hope he will abandon that approach and instead sit down and discuss the issues with Senator Clinton in a civil and agreeable way as they did in California last week.
Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.