Hillary’s Upstate Myth?

The recent New Republic has a piece challenging the notion (subscription required) that Hillary’s Upstate success means she can succeed on a national level.

First, it argues that she didn’t really do all that well in 2000 Upstate, where Lazio narrowly beat her. Second, it argues that Upstate is more liberal than most of America, and that Hillary’s success has been more retail than any national candidate could duplicate.

These points seem only partially right. National elections aren’t fought by sweeping whole states; they’re won and lost on the margins, and Hillary’s narrow defeat upstate was — in that sense — quite a victory. And since then, she’s defused some of the suspicion and dislike.

The same point applies to the argument that Upstate is more liberal than America. Sure it’s more liberal than Alabama; but the central question of “electibility” is whether Hillary can pull a few more votes in Ohio than John Kerry.

On the other hand, the New Republic’s attempted debunking is prescient, in a way. John Spencer seems set to hand Hillary Schumeresque margins all across the state, and if he does, the modest lessons that can be drawn from the Rochester suburbs will rapidly be transformed into “Kerry’s-a-great-closer”-style mythology.