Read it and tell me -- do you think Clinton or Obama would be a better candidate against JSM?
To: Interested Parties
From: Mark Penn, Chief Strategist
Date: Saturday, February 2, 2008
Re: Hillary is the Democrat to Beat McCain
If John McCain becomes the Republican nominee, Hillary is the Democrat who can beat him -- because she has the strength and experience a president needs to get America on the right course and to defend it against future threats. She is the hands-on leader that America needs as we slip into a worsening economic crisis. Her ability to be both a strong commander-in-chief and steward of the economy are what make her the favorite against Sen. McCain.
Sen. Obama has been telling voters that he is the one to beat Sen. McCain because he gave a speech against the war in 2002 and because he is currently attracting independent voters. But those arguments don’t hold up to current polling, to history or to what is likely to happen in a general election.
First, there is no support to Sen. Obama’s assertion that his 2002 speech makes him a stronger choice in a general election. Recent history shows that voters look to who they believe can end a war and protect us against future wars. No one believes that if Hillary had been president she would have started the war. In fact, Hillary is backed by prominent anti-war leaders because they believe she is uniquely able to end the war responsibly.
Based on recent polls, there is nothing to support Sen. Obama's arguments about his prospective performance against Sen. McCain – both Sen. Obama and Hillary start off within the margin of error against Sen. McCain.Yesterday's Fox poll showed both in a statistical tie with Sen. McCain And Hillary's negatives are fully factored in, whereas the same cannot be said of Sen. Obama because he is – by his own admission - not as well known.
Sen. Obama’s support among independents comes from Democratic-leaning independents, voters who are likely to back the eventual Democratic nominee. He has no overall advantage in the polls against Sen. McCain. But such voters have very little information about Sen. Obama. And once the Republican machine begins to methodically attack him, he will lose independent support.
So in a head to head against Sen. McCain, Sen. Obama has no advantage with swing voters.
The 2004 election was determined by two key groups – women concerned about security and Latinos – and against Sen. McCain those groups could again prove decisive. President Bush won 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004 and Sen. McCain, unlike other Republicans, has been supportive of immigration reform. These are two groups that enthusiastically support Hillary.
As voters look to the future, they will be looking at who can put the country on the right path and who can defend it against future threats. While Hillary is seen as strong on defense and has served on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Obama has no record on these national security issues that would again be front and center.
So if Sen. McCain is the nominee, Hillary is the one well-positioned to beat him. Already well vetted, she is ready to stand up to Sen. McCain on national security and put together a winning coalition of voters that will take back the White House.
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.