Not to put too fine a point on it, but Hillary Clinton has always used her general election viability as a trump card against Barack Obama (think: "I'm tested, I'm ready.") But Obama's campaign is pointing to new polling data to shoot the moon.
If they can get voters in the larger primary states to think they're as viable (if not more viable) than Clinton is, she loses a core argument of her candidacy.
TO: Interested Parties
FR: Obama Communications
RE: The Candidate Who Can Win: Barack Obama is beating Hillary Clinton with Independent voters and can beat John McCain in November
DA: February 8, 2007
On the day that John McCain became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, a Time poll confirmed what voters and polls have consistently demonstrated in the last few weeks – Barack Obama is the candidate best suited to win Independents, play well in Red States, and beat John McCain in November.
In all six of the most recent general election head-to-head match-ups, Obama does better than Hillary Clinton against McCain by an average of more than five points. In four out of the six, Clinton loses to McCain.
From Time Magazine: The difference, says Mark Schulman, CEO of Abt SRBI, which conducted the poll for Time, is that "independents tilt toward McCain when he is matched up against Clinton But they tilt toward Obama when he is matched up against the Illinois Senator." Independents, added Schulman, "are a key battleground." [Time, 2/7/08]
The truth of this statement is reflected in the results from the contests we’ve had so far. In critical swing states that Democrats need to carry in November, Obama has beaten Hillary Clinton among Independent voters by crushing margins. In Missouri, he won them by 37 points (67-30). In New Mexico, he’s winning them by 39 points (63-24). In Arizona and New Hampshire, he won them by 10 points (47-37, 41-31).
On Super Tuesday, in six red states that had primaries or caucuses for both Republicans and Democrats, Obama won and got more votes than the top two Republicans combined. These states – Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota and South Carolina – account for a total of 53 Electoral College votes. In Idaho and Kansas, where there was no Republican primary, Obama won at least a three-to-one victory over Clinton. Obama has shown such a strong appeal with Independents that even John McCain’s Texas media consultant Mark McKinnon recently confirmed that he would not work against Obama if he is the nominee.
On NPR today, President Bush’s chief political strategist Matthew Dowd said, “The other thing that I think John McCain has going for him is if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination I know there’s a lot of conservatives out there that said they wouldn’t vote or would vote for her but I think she’s the most unifying force for John McCain out there right now, not himself.” He went on to say later in the interview, “I think if you gave the strategists and people around John McCain some truth serum and asked them to say who they want to run against, in a minute they’d say Senator Hillary Clinton. They think that she’s polarizing; she’d motivate and unite the base of the Republican Party. She’s not a generational difference and a change of a figure, she’s a bit of throwback to the past, like to a degree he is. Against Senator Obama it’s a much more difficult task. It would be a generational campaign, the new versus the older. Somebody that had a distinct stand on Iraq versus his stand on Iraq. I think Senator Obama is a much more difficult race and there is not any vitriol from the conservative and the Republican base against Senator Obama. They don’t sort of dislike him to there core like they do Hillary Clinton. I think they would much prefer, the McCain folks, race against Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama because it’s hard to compose a strategy against a new guy like Barack.” [NPR, 2/8/08]
Most recent head-to-head match-ups:
Time (Feb 1-4)
Obama 48 (+7)
Clinton 46 (+0)
CNN/Opinion Research (Feb 1-3)
Obama 52 (+8)
Clinton 50 (+3)
Cook Political Report/RT Strategies Poll (Jan 31-Feb 2)
Obama 45 (+2)
Clinton 41 (-4)
ABC/Washington Post (Jan 31 – Feb 1)
Obama 49 (+3)
Clinton 46 (-3)
Fox News (Jan 30-31)
Obama 44 (+1)
Clinton 44 (-1)
Obama: 47 (+5)
Clinton: 43 (-3)