Clinton vs. Obama

I am utterly undecided. Feel free to make a suggestion.

To me, it is simply not the case that in most regards one candidate has better positions than the other. The main difference I see is in that Clinton has articulated her positions in more detail than Obama. Obama seems to be running more of a hope and charisma campaign.

I liked Bill Clinton, and I never had negative feelings towards Hillary Clinton, as many people seem to. I hear Hillary Clinton supporters expressing the thought that she would be a good president and the best possible campaigner against any of the Republicans, despite the anti-Hillary or the Hate Hillary faction. I hear Obama supporters expressing their feelings that he is an inspiring candidate. The key differences between these two expressions is not too subtly buried in the wording I’ve chosen: think vs feel. Frankly I think, or maybe feel, that it comes down to that.

In truth, I want the candidate that has the best chance of beating the Republican to get the nomination. A lot of Obama supporters respond, when they hear me say this, that that has to be Obama because Clinton has all these negatives … meaning, people who are negative about her. I don’t buy that for two reasons. First, yes, there are negatives, but these are concentrated among those who would vote for McCain in an instant, so it does not matter. The second reason is that we live in a racist nation, and when it comes down to it, there are a lot of people who are not going to vote for Obama because he is black. However, that faction does not spout their rhetoric through all possible media outlets as do the anti-Clinton people.

But, I don’t feel any strong need to avoid Obama because there are those who would vote against him because he is black. Those people are also not going to vote for Clinton because she is a woman.

Ideally, this Tuesday, the Democrats will launch the candidate, the overall winner of Super Tuesday, with a bang. That candidate … the one who takes the most delegates, will also have a strong popular vote, and will win in nearly every state. That will generate very helpful momentum for the general election. Also, it may diffuse and stop the just now increasing intra-party fighting that may ultimately weaken the Democratic chance for a win in November.

So, to help understand this, we may turn to the polls.

Nationally, in one series of RCP poll data (which averages several polls), Clinton has been solidly ahead of Obama (and still is) with Obama having a very suddent upturn since June. Here’s a picture from their site that is hard to read but will give you the gestalt. This is from January 30th 2007 to the present:

i-f1f823101755b7b586f1f4b28214985e-pollgraph.jpg

Over at Realclearpolitics.com, it is easy to get a look at the polling data.

Perhaps more important is the “head to head” polls.

Here is a rough breakdown:

McCain vs. Clinton: McCain wins in most polls

McCAin vs Obama: Viurtually dead even, Obama winning in four and McCain in three, but they are all so close that it ends up with McCain a half percentage point ahead.

Romney vs. Clinton: Clinton beats romney in every head to head poll but a comfortable margin.

Romney vs. Obama: Obama beats Romney by an even more comfortable margin.

Huckabee vs. Clinton: Clinton beats Huckabee by, interestingly, less of a margin than she beats Romney, but by a comfortable amount

Huckabee vs Obama: Obama veats Huckabee by an even bigger margin.

This all suggests that Obama will do better than Clinton against any or all Republicans. However, do you really believe that when it comes down to it, the Obama election machine is as strong as the Clinton election machine?

To me, it comes down to whether or not the apparent superiority of the Obama campaign in head to heads measured over the last few months is sufficient to overcome an extremely well run and effective campaign by Hillary Clinton. It is not clear to me that this is the case.

How about Super Tuesday? Is there a current favorite between Obama and Clinton in most states?

One source
gives us these results:

California: Clinton
New York: Clinton
Massachusetts: Clinton
Georgia: Obama
Illinois: Obama
Alabama: Clinton
Minnesota: Clinton
Tennessee: Clinton
Jew Jersey: Clinton
Arizona: Clinton
Connecticut: Clinton
Oklahoma: Clinton (but with John Edwards still in that poll at 24%)
Colorado: Obmaa (but with John Edwards at 17%)
Utah: Clinton
Missouri: Clinton
New Mexico: Clinton
Arkansas: Clinton (Edwards at 14)
Deleware: Clinton
Idaho: Obama (but with Edwards at 15%)

So overall, Clinton is projected by this set of data to sweep Super Tuesday.

The best scenario for the Democrats is that Clinton totally wipes Obama off the map, thus gaining huge momentum, or that Obama does better than Clinton thus, in pulling ahead, gains huge momentum. The worst case scenario for the Democrats is that Clinton beats Obama by a little almost everywhere. Then, the real slug fest begins!

But wait, there’s more…

It would be nice to know which Republican is going to win on Super Tuesday. If it is McCain, then maybe Obama is the best bet for the Democrats. If it is anyone else, the Clinton may be the best bet.

The same source predicts way more McCain winds than Romney wins, and a couple of strong showings for Huckabee, with the latter only winning in Arkanas.

Yet another consideration is: Is Nader going to run, and if so, what happens there? Well, I think Nader would take more Obama votes than Clinton votes. Am I wrong about that?

So, what do I do on Tuesday. Please advise.

Comments

  1. #1 Sniderman
    February 3, 2008

    Choose not to choose. (Rush would say you still have made a choice, though).

    That’s how I played it. Clinton as POTUS, Obama as VPOTUS.

    Wonder twin powers ACTIVATE!

  2. #2 Ayje
    February 3, 2008

    Here on my thoughts on why Obama will beat the Republican nominee (Mcain?). Obama gets a lot of votes from independents and crossover republicans (despite being rated the most liberal senator). For example, Susan Eisenhower has endorsed Obama for president. I believe that these votes, in addition to the standard democratic voters, will propel him to victory in November, while Clinton will not pick up the extra base of support that Obama has. I’m not saying that Clinton won’t win, just that Obama is more likely to.

    Just my 2 cents.

  3. #3 MIke Haubrich, FCD
    February 3, 2008

    Be careful which “Rush” you are referring to here, Sniderman.

    I think you may be over-thinking this a bit, Greg. You are suffering from horserace-overdose, and the only cure is to vote for Gravel.

    Let the chips fall where they may on the Presidential race. Remember you are going to caucuses for Al Franken, that’s the most important thing.

  4. #4 Travis Vocino
    February 3, 2008

    If you read Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope, specifically the chapter on faith, I think it’s very helpful to those of use in scientific fields.

    His strong position on reason and logic-based decisions are what sold me.

    He does identify as a “Christian.” However, as he explains, it is an identification based on his particular community’s ability to proactively help their area and people — not something involving spirits talking him into converting.

    His mother’s atheism taught him a great deal and he was raised in an open enviornment with the freedom to be logical about nature without the supernatural.

  5. #5 chezjake
    February 3, 2008

    I’ve been going through many of the same considerations and am also still up in the air.

    However, there are a couple of things you haven’t taken into account. First, all of the Democratic primaries award delegates proportionately. The likelihood of either Clinton or Obama coming out a clear winner on Tuesday is quite small.

    Secondly, even though polls show Obama doing better against McCain, that’s more along the lines of the popular vote. The big consideration should be which of the Democratic candidates has a better chance of winning the electoral vote. I did a rough count a couple days ago and figured there’s about 237 (out of 538) electoral votes that Obama has almost no chance of winning. That would essentially require him to win just about all of the “toss up” states — PA, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon, and Virginia.

    Of course, in my state (NY), how I vote in the primary won’t mean much.

  6. #6 Beth
    February 4, 2008

    I’m caucusing for Clinton. Both are equally far from my real position that its like looking at two people a block away. So I’m going for Clinton on experience and the fact that I want a woman to be president.

    But really, my choice for president is between a black man or a white woman? Would you like cake or pie? A free trip to Maui or a free trip to Jamaica? Well gosh.

  7. #7 Josh Rosenau
    February 4, 2008

    I suppose your think/feel dichotomy isn’t totally wrong. And, as an Obama backer, I’d point out that voters tend to make their choices based on feelings, rather than a detailed analysis of policy positions.

    There’s a degree to which that’s just disappointing laziness on their parts. The candidates have the whitepapers out there, and perhaps more voters should read them.

    Then again, those voters are onto something important. There’s only so much a president can do or plan for. No one can know what the situation in Iraq will be a year from now, as the next president is inaugurated. We don’t know what the economy will look like, and we don’t know who will be in Congress. Those 535 people will have a lot to say about any health care plan that the next prez proposes, and about Iraq, the economy, the environment, etc., etc., etc.

    What matters, then, is not the ability to lay out detailed plans a year ahead of time, but the ability to pick your fights, to stand firm against bad ideas, to insist on good ideas, and to be prepared to give and take to bring people on board behind a good plan when it emerges, or to kill a bad one.

    There’s not really a way to know ahead of time which candidate will do that most effectively. Judgment on the authorization to invade Iraq, or a record of passing progressive legislation in a state or federal legislature can help, but in the end, it really is all about feeling.

    Feeling is how you swing a couple of moderate Republicans in the Senate to vote with you to break a filibuster. It’s how you get a reticent committee chair to bring a tricky bill to a vote, and it’s how you shepherd that bill through various negotiations, and pass it cleanly, with the key provisions intact.

    Hillary’s divisive tendency (which is not entirely her fault, though her inability to defuse that division may be) will work against her not just in the election, but in fights with Congress. Moderate Republicans will know that resisting “Hillarycare” or whatever other asinine names they cook up for her policies, they can score points with their voters. The same calculus doesn’t apply as deeply with Obama. In 2006, he was the most popular Senatorial campaigner for candidates in red/purple states like Missouri, helping Democrats retake the House and Senate.

  8. #8 jeffk
    February 4, 2008

    Gravel.

    But seriously, now that Edwards is gone, I’m faced with the same decision. And since their positions are the same for all practical purposes, I’m trending towards Hillary. They’re both centrist, corporate shills and it kills me that this is the best so-called “progressives” can come up with, but at least Hillary is an unholy bitch who pisses off Republicans. The last thing we want now is to choose a candidate that conservative morons like. The fact that Clinton sends conservatives into strange conniptions makes me like her. To be the first woman to make it as far as she has involves putting up with a lot of shit and playing dirty, and right now, I like that. I don’t want compromise, I don’t want bi-partisan bull-shit, I want blood.

  9. #9 yogi-one
    February 4, 2008

    It’s good the see the Dems have two strong candidates.

    The main benefit of having Dems in the White House will probably be the that Dems don’t prefer always being engaged in full-on hot wars as the GOP does.

    Basically the policies will remain the same. The Dems also might make more room for climate-change technologies to flower a bit more.

    As far as justice goes, we won’t get it. Neither Clinton or Obama has any interest in uncovering and prosecuting crimes and ethics violations of Bush and Cheney.

    It’s a horrible, terrible, awful defeat for America that those two won’t be prosecuted and their crimes made public. It’s one of the worst historical mistakes this country will ever make, because by doing so we turn our backs on the important lessons the country needs to learn from the last seven years.

    We won’t look at those lessons, and it will come back to bite us sooner than we think.

    I hope we have Dem White house, but really for me it’s just choosing the lesser of two evils.

    Dems talk populist; they always have. But I’m pretty sure it will be the same old lobbies financing candidates of their choosing and demanding favors, tax breaks, and legal loopholes in return, just as always.

    And both Hillary and Obama are part and parcel of that system. Neither one is an outsider, and neither is interested in bringing the real, deep, structural change that is needed to change the way national politics is corrupted today.

    If they were interested in change, they’d start by having international monitoring of the elections. Then there would be a full on investigation of the Bush Administration, with people like Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich in charge of the investigation. Cheney and Bush would be held responsible, and tried as charged criminals if found to have violated US or international law, or exposed for having failed to uphold their oath to function according to the US Constitution.

    But Obama won’t do that. Neither will Clinton.

    There is no candidate of change. There are only candidates who talk about change. And it has always been that way.

  10. #10 natural cynic
    February 4, 2008

    One thing that may be considered in the possble McCain vs. Clinton or Obama is the effect a McCain candidacy will have on the Republican Party bigwigs. They really don’t like McCain. A quote from this article in SAlon

    When Republican Rob Haney goes door to door to stump for candidates, he asks them to rate John McCain on a scale from 1 to 10. “The people who don’t know much about politics rate him a 9 or 10,” says Haney, who is a state party chairman in Arizona’s 11th Legislative District. “The people who know what’s going on rate him a 1 or a 2, or ask, ‘Can I rate him a minus?’”

    It seems that the visceral dislike for McCain might be more likely to be overcome with a Clinton candidacy than an Obama candidacy. Whichever candidate the D’s select, they had better emphasize McCain’s 100 years in Iraq and his toadying to W. Hammering on that kind of meme will be more effective than anything else with the independant vote.

    The political skills that Clinton and Obama apparently have may also be fairly equal. Despite the feelings of the R base towards Clinton, the many of the R members of the Senate have respect for her since they know her better, maybe more so than Obama.

  11. #11 natural cynic
    February 4, 2008

    And take a look at This Modern World @ Salon

  12. #12 razib
    February 4, 2008

    yes you can! ;-)

  13. #13 Tatarize
    February 4, 2008

    I don’t think either of them will lose. However, I think Obama is a better choice based on his record number in youth vote. Honestly, if that many people vote in all the different areas it will have secondary effects in terms of house and senate seats. For example, I live in California and there’s almost no reason for me to vote in the general election because my state is going to support the Democratic nominee. However, there are other races which bringing people to the polls is going to be very very useful for. Also, I think some people honestly hate Clinton and even if they have no chance whatsoever of turning the election they might just go to the polls to vote against her. That’s bad for the races down the way.

    Despite the whole, I love hope and optimism and will support the most politically left candidate who stands a chance at winning. I think Obama has major coattails which I believe Clinton might lack.

  14. #14 IanR
    February 4, 2008

    Throughout the Clinton years, I was a big Hillary supporter. But I have never liked Senator Clinton. She’s far too much of a hawk, and the last thing we need right now is another warmonger…even if it’s just a character she plays in the Senate. I consider her vote on the Iraq war a sign of weakness – that vote was made as a political calculation, and the fact that she still stands by it is a disturbing sign. I’m disappointed with both of their stances on gay marriage. Again, I consider that position cowardly. But there’s no such thing as the perfect candidate. Hillary could easily be a better president than Bill.

    But I’m solidly behind Obama for another reason. It isn’t because I think he’s more electable – although I honestly believe that he would be better in the election (he inspires people; he appeals to independents and younger Republicans on the basis of who he is. Either of them will get the votes of the Democratic base, but I believe that Obama will be better at attracting votes from outside that group.) It isn’t because I find him more inspiring than any politician I can remember (although I do). It’s because of things like this article on from DHinMI at dKos, and this post from Josh Rosenau.

    I believe that Obama embodies a possibility for change. A political leader gets things done when s/he steps in front of a groundswell, one that I believe is building. Hillary could be an effective president. I think Obama could be something more, a once-in-a-generation figure.

  15. #15 Virgil Samms
    February 4, 2008

    Well, there’s what the public wants. Then there’s what the candidates think the public wants. Then there’s what the media thinks the public wants.
    Obama must convince voters of toughness
    Right, so maybe he’ll eat a live bug on stage; that would do it.

  16. #16 Anne Gilbert
    February 4, 2008

    Like Greg, I’m more or less undecided. But at the moment I’m leaning Obama. Why? It’s not that I dislike Hillary. I don’t. I certainly didn’t have it in for her husband — I voted for him at the time. The problem with Hillary is, because of Bill, she carries a considerable amount of “baggage”, which I fear the “Rethuglican” machine will do everything it can to exploit. And the way things are going, I have a horrible feeling that we’ll end up with a President McCain or Romney if she is chosen as the Democratic nominee.

    The other problem I have with Hillary is her connections, especially with the Democratic Leadership Council. This is more or less where she(and Bill) got their “centrist”, rather “do-nothing” policies, and the DLC is essentially one of the reasons the Democrats are so timid right now.

    For all his faults, e.g. the hot air of hope he blows, Obama doesn’t seem to have these connections. I will emphatically add here, I really don’t care what biological sex the president is, nor do I care what color of skin he or she will be wearing on Inauguration Day. But I do care about the direction this country has been going in, and it isn’t pretty. And, unfortunately, the so-called “conservatives”, headed by the present occupant of the White House, have been leading our country down this dangerous path. So I will vote for whatever Democrat the the Democratic Party selects, and I will work for him or her. But I just happen to think Obama stands a better chance of actually getting to the White House. I don’t know what he’ll do when and if he gets there, but it would hardly be surprising if his presence helps lead the United States out of the morass into which it is presently mired.
    Anne G