Hillary’s Fall Appeal: An obscured view?

In the final days of her candidacy, Hillary Clinton tried to make the argument that her candidacy had a better shot of patching together the 270 electoral votes needed to win the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than her opponent Barack Obama.

Despite the fact that Real Clear Politics reported Clinton leading in the popular vote and she won 6 of the last 9 primary contests, the press gave little credence to her proposition, including our own media outlets.

For the most part, New Jersey’s daily election coverage originated from national sources. A bit odd when you consider that Clinton hailed from a neighboring state, and the fact that Jerseyans have voted Democrat in the last four Presidential elections.

I read a lot of newspapers on a daily basis – but I never saw any realanalysis in the 500 plus articles published statewide during the pivotal month of April. Did I mentionThe New York Times hosted scores of pages online with all the stats a reporter or editor would need to scratch a bit deeper. Little interest was triggered even after the Star Ledger reported on a national poll which showed Clinton and McCain in a statistical dead heat and Obama losing an earlier 10 point advantage over McCain (4/11/08).

Why does this matter to New Jersey readers? For one thing, Clinton was the hands-down choice of Garden State voters. For another thing, some of the state’s superdelegates flip-flopped while others stayed on the sidelines during the critical vetting process. Then, the Ledger editorial board opined (5/08/08) that Clinton should drop out of the race before all the primaries were held and before Obama had edged out Clinton in the superdelegate count – you know, the real math count that ultimately determined the Democrat's presumptive nominee.

In the end, Hillary’s claim went unchallenged and unexplored by the media…so we took a look for ourselves.

Big States, Small States

Clinton only won 20 out of the 49 state primary contests if you don’t count Michigan where Obama was not on the ballot. Obama’s claim that he won more states, including both big and small states, was accurate. What was obscured or ignored by the press was the reality that Clinton’s victories came in the biggest states which carry more Electoral College votes overall than the states’ her opponent scored victories in (294-227).

But let’s set that aside for the moment since we all know the rules of engagement for the General Election are very different than those of the primary season. For starters, there are no superdelegates, no caucuses, and all voters are welcome. The magic number is 270 and almost exclusively, it’s winner-take-all.

Battleground States

In the end, it all comes down to about 14 battleground states – the states in which neither party wins consistently or by less than double digit margins. In these up-for-grabs states, it was Clinton who clearly charmed the voters. Clinton won half of the contests against her primary contender, but she won in the states where the electoral spoils were bigger (99-67). Again, if you take Michigan out of the mix, Clinton still scored victories in states with 82 electoral votes including the prized road-to-the-White House states of Ohio and Florida.

Overall in the battleground states, Clinton was the top vote getter with totals of 5,465,405 as compared to Obama with 5,309,964 and McCain with 3,675,459. It’s true you can’t conclude too much from a mismatch of states competing under different rules, but in five of the key states her margins were bigger than both Obama’s and McCain’s including Ohio and Florida. Clinton also won five of the eight battleground states that held primaries. In the seven targeted states John Kerry lost in 2004 to George W. Bush, Clinton outpolled both her opponents with primary tallies of 2.75 million to 2.51 and 1.96 million for Obama and McCain.

Even conservative columnist George Will told the story that it was the Democrat Party’s rules that doomed Clinton’s candidacy, not her appeal to voters in the states that matter most in the fall.

So did the Clinton campaign fail to make its case to the media, and in turn the superdelegates, or did the echo chamber drown out the real story?


Hillary’s Fall Appeal: An obscured view?