A Better Case Against Obama's Electability

Atlantic media political director Ronald Brownstein has the data the Clinton campaign did not:

In a recent Pew Research Center survey, for instance, Obama carried independents against McCain by 6 percentage points, while McCain carried them against Clinton by the same amount; the difference mostly reflected Obama's stronger showing among independents earning at least $50,000 annually. Other surveys, such as a Quinnipiac University poll in the key battleground of Pennsylvania, have found that Obama also swipes more Republicans from McCain than Clinton does.

This all tracks Obama strengths familiar from the primaries. But primary-season trends more troubling for Obama are also persisting. In the national Pew survey, and in Quinnipiac polls of Ohio and Pennsylvania, Obama lost more Democrats to McCain than Clinton did. In the Pew survey, Obama struggled particularly among the same blue-collar white Democrats resisting him in the primaries: Fully 30 percent of white Democrats earning less than $30,000 a year preferred McCain over Obama. Clinton would lose only half as many of them to McCain, the polls indicate. In the Quinnipiac surveys, Clinton likewise outpolled Obama against McCain among white women without college degrees, a key general election swing group that has overwhelmingly preferred her in the primaries.

Findings like these help explain why many Democrats think Obama offers greater potential rewards as a nominee, but also presents greater risks. If Obama runs well, he seems more likely than Clinton to assemble a big majority and trigger a Democratic sweep -- not only by attracting independents and crossover Republicans but also by increasing turnout among African-Americans and young people.

But if Obama stumbles, he could face a greater danger of fracturing the traditional Democratic coalition by losing seniors and blue-collar whites to McCain, principally on security issues. Clinton's reach across the electorate may not be as long, but her grip on her voters could be firmer.