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October 20, 2007

"How Could Clinton Win? Nobody I Know Voted For Her."

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

Via DeLong and Franke-Ruta (that's just the order their posts popped up in my RSS reader), the NYT's Judith Warner wonders if maybe, just maybe, the hyper-educated urban cosmopolitan upper-middle class journalists have a Pauline Kael problem [sic] when it comes to assessing the public's impressions of Hillary Clinton. The Village has inculcated the right-wing myth that Real America out there in the heartland (even though there are more World of Warcraft players than farmers) hates Clinton and will never vote for her, backed up by her weak performance in the 2000 Senate election. But this just doesn't pass the smell test. Clinton will have had a full year to restore her image by the time the Iowa caucuses roll around. Should she become the nominee, the public will experience a billion dollars worth of pro-Clinton messaging as well as even more free favorable free media coverage. What's more, in a fashion similar to a certain former Texas governor, Clinton could end up benefiting from her negative image; once TV viewers realize they don't turn to stone upon seeing her, they will be perfectly willing to reevaluate their preconceptions of her.

I will say that while I always expected Clinton to fare better than her 2005 or 2006 favorable ratings might have indicated, I didn't expect she would be able to improve her favorable figures this much this quickly; I thought she would have to do more than just show up on midday talk show circuit to improve her favorables, and that the Democratic primary electorate would not be particularly eager to nominate a candidate whose record and rhetoric has all the hallmarks of a centrist. But hey, I'm part of the hyper-educated urban cosmopolitan upper-middle class. What do I know about Democratic voters in suburban Des Moines?

—signed, not Ezra Klein.

October 20, 2007 | Permalink


[not Ezra Klein],

The Democrats could run the equivalent of a barn door and the country would vote the Republican party out of the White house.

Posted by: S Brennan | Oct 20, 2007 12:31:24 PM

I half disagree. While Hillary would continue to benefit from her negative image (hey, she doesn't have horns!), I think it still possible, even likely, that she'll be a bad general election candidate. The worst of both worlds: a corporate-sponsored estabishment centrist viewed by the public as a liberal, someone whose fundraising machine is just as scummy as the Republicans', who will be unable to draw important distinctions with the GOP on anything but competence. And then we will likely be treated to stories of Big Dog's post-Monica infidelity. If you don't think an election involving Hillary will be about Bill's phallus, you've been asleep for the last decade.

But hey, she could win, by a few votes. Or we could elect someone who could win big.

Posted by: david mizner | Oct 20, 2007 12:34:09 PM

S Brennan might be right when it comes down to an actual Republican nominee. But I'm down the road a ways from suburban Des Moines, and I can tell you (anecdotally, of course) HRC will a) not win the Iowa Caucus and b) will have a really hard time carrying the state if she gets the nomination anyway. And I'm in liberal enclave Iowa City. Lots of people are tired of seeing a Bush or a Clinton on the ticket.

You think there was a lot of Anybody But Bush voters out there in 2004? You ain't seen nothing. Her increasing favorables are like a morbidly obese person dropping weight. Losing 50 pounds isn't all that tough if you're going from 400 pounds to 350 pounds.

Posted by: Trevor | Oct 20, 2007 12:39:46 PM

But, the liberal enclaves are where Clinton fares worst, at least among Democrats.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Oct 20, 2007 12:46:32 PM

Losing 50 pounds isn't all that tough if you're going from 400 pounds to 350 pounds.

Well, let's ask the fat person about that; perhaps the point is that shedding 1/8th of your body weight isn't as tough as say, one third (going from 150 to 100). In any case, I think the thing is... we don't know. I don't know suburban DesMoines, but I do know I hear a lot of "I don't know anybody who supports Clinton" out in the blogs, and yet I have a number of female friends and acquaintances whose minds are al but made up on her. The support for her is out there, it's not just "the establishment" or the "corporate interests", it's real and I get the impression it's growing. And I think she's gotten much better, much faster than I expected, at looking and sounding warm and genuine. That, of course, is not the same as actually being warm and genuine, which could always trip her up. And I still find her more worrying than positive; but I don't see who can stop her - especially the right wing hate machine, which I think lost any rational ability to describe her long ago. I'd love to see someone try, but so far I see people fighting a mirage of things about her, not the actual her.

Posted by: weboy | Oct 20, 2007 12:55:55 PM

The things that hurts Clinton the most among many blog readers -- that she's a hyper-disciplined, uninspired campaigner whose staff is made up of media-savvy professionals who have obsessive message control -- is precisely what will make her such a strong general election candidate. (Plus she managed to negotiate a truce with Rupert Murdoch, as Tony Blair did in the mid-to-late-90s)

That and her profile-- that of a midwestern, Methodist moderate with a voting record that's so reflexively hawkish that no one could claim she was "soft of defense" -- pretty much means she would seal the deal under any circumstances as long as she had the support for the party establishment, which she does.

Once Hillary managed to get the implicit endorsement of Billy Graham, I knew that she pretty much was going to seal the deal with rank-and-file voters. Not that this was my favored outcome, but there it is.

Posted by: Tyro | Oct 20, 2007 1:35:51 PM

backed up by her weak performance in the 2000 Senate election


A carpet-bagger winning by 12 points is hardly my idea of a "weak performance."

Posted by: Jason C. | Oct 20, 2007 1:52:55 PM

her weak performance in the 2000 Senate election

Jason C beat me, but yeah. When her book came out, Jon Stewart said "Hey, Lazio, she wrote a book and she still kicked your ass!"

Posted by: Mike B. | Oct 20, 2007 2:08:41 PM

Beyond that, I think several commenters here are recapitulating Nicholas's point here rather than refuting it. She's not only dominating the nomination race, she's further ahead in the polls for the general than either of her rivals--yet she can't win, because people are saying it's so.

I spent a long time backing Edwards, but I think I'm for Clinton now--and while part of that is that I don't think Edwards is viable and I don't think Obama's prepared to be president, part of it is simply that I'm tired of hearing poor anti-Clinton arguments. Electability was not a good reason to vote against her husband and it is not a good reason to vote against her, and I look forward to seeing that borne out.

Posted by: Mike B. | Oct 20, 2007 2:14:46 PM

There's a slow wearing of the Hllary hatred that has always seemed like a lot of double standards and outright misogyny. I can accept disagreeing with her positions but the hatred comes from somewhere else.
Here's a little visual aid to challenge some of those reflexive criticisms of Senator Clinton.

Posted by: scoutt | Oct 20, 2007 2:28:25 PM

A carpet-bagger winning by 12 points is hardly my idea of a "weak performance."

She ran 5 points behind Gore, with Nader picking up 4%. That's pretty weak.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Oct 20, 2007 2:31:47 PM

I had read that column by Warner earlier and it rang true to me as a non-upper-middle class person. I don't know how this plays out in Iowa. The fact that the other candidates have to bet everything on Iowa is indicative of Hillary's successful formation of a firm and broad coalition of support among women, minorities and lower income people.

Posted by: Kazumatan | Oct 20, 2007 2:46:05 PM

Running 5 points behind Gore in New York isn't bad for someone who had held no prior office and wasn't even from the state.

Posted by: mad6798j | Oct 20, 2007 3:02:18 PM

over the course of 15 years her favorable ratings in terms of averaging of polls fluctuates from the low to mid 40s to almost 50 percent. this means that these are hard unfavorables- not short term ebbs and peaks. your analysis fail because like way, way way too many A list bloggers- your mindset is here and now.

Posted by: akaison | Oct 20, 2007 3:07:33 PM

Why do we keep on with this....
"....has all the hallmarks of a centrist."

She really isn't.
Hafta say I kinda like her for several things
but 'centrist ' she ain't.
I know it's a matter of where observer stands but
from most of our perches she tends strongly...right.

Callin' a spade a spade, *as it were.
[Sorry!...a Cheneyism* snuck in.]

Posted by: has_te | Oct 20, 2007 3:56:36 PM


"I can accept disagreeing with her positions but the hatred comes from somewhere else."

When it comes to politicos, duplicity is the most cited offense for hatred, so your point is well taken...my hatred of BOTH Clintons comes from the fact that you can't count on them...that and the fact they always do what's best for themselves and their wealthy friends.

I'm not sure the role of "outright misogyny" plays in my hatred of the Clintons, but similarly criticism of Israel's Lekud party are successfully deflected by accusing the critical person of being an anti-Semite and I assume you wish to follow that well worn line of argument?

Frankly, rather than Obama or Hill & Bill I'd rather see Barbra Jordan [deceased].

Posted by: S Brennan | Oct 20, 2007 4:12:16 PM

Twice now while shopping at an organic grocery store that gets a lot of customers from the church across the street, I've heard church ladies express the same idea: they respect for the Clintons for having raised a daughter who turned out so well, and even though at the time they were appalled by Bill's fooling around, they've decided that the Republican noise machine made everything worse with the publicity. As one of them put it, the only thing a Christian can count on is that everyone's going to sin sooner or later, and repentance and forgiveness are both easier outside the spotlight. They see that Bill and Hillary continue to love each other and to maintain their family, and they think this compares really well to the nasty family failures so many prominent Republicans have. One of them also commented on Ann Coulter as a hussy, and expressed a desire for more women in positions of leadership who can be feminine without being tawdry, and on her surprise at realizing how much better the Democrats are about that these days than the Republicans.

That's obviously not a viewpoint that's heavily represented in the punditoblogosphere, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's fairly widespread among voters who are temperamentally Republican but now alienated by the machine.

Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Oct 20, 2007 4:45:20 PM

Gender and race in this cycle are cynically being used to avoid debate about character, policies and strategies. Point out Clinton shouldn't have voted the way she did on Iran, and you may be called sexist. Talk about electability, well, then you are referencing race and gender because we never discussed electability for politicians before this year, and certainly never when it was all male and all white so the fact we are bringing it up this year MUST mean race or gender is the subtext. This election cycle is going to go down as the dark side of identity politics. There is a good side- where we identity real racism and sexism, etc. There is the bad- where such statements are designed to make the criticism go away by playing on liberal pscyhology. As has oft been said here- Thatcher was a woman. So gender and race can not begin and end the conversation- unless of course thats a part of your online strategy to neutralize debate and discussion from A list bloggers.

Posted by: akaison | Oct 20, 2007 4:47:04 PM

I think the only people who think this is about the Clinton sex life on the blogs are the posters who regularly bring it up as an excuse to avoid discussions such as about Hsu. Like much of their online approach- it's objects of mass distraction at best, and outright distain for truth (as in lying) at worse.

Posted by: akaison | Oct 20, 2007 4:49:00 PM

(Personally, I would take any of the other leading candidates over Clinton, and Kucinich or Dodd over any of those. I really hope she doesn't get the nomination, because I think she'd be bad for the country as president. But I remain deeply fascinated by how people unlike me perceive her - what's important to them at the moment and how they go about trying to uphold what concerns them.)

Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Oct 20, 2007 4:49:26 PM

She ran 5 points behind Gore, with Nader picking up 4%. That's pretty weak.

But she wasn't running against George W. Bush; she was running against the much more ideologically palatable (to NY voters) Rick Lazio.

Posted by: Jason C. | Oct 20, 2007 5:04:01 PM

Lazio was a frequent guest on Sean Hannity's radio show back in 2000. After the election, Hannity was saying, "How Could Clinton Win? Nobody I Know Voted For Her."

Posted by: peter | Oct 20, 2007 5:04:38 PM

It reminds me of this Garance piece, The Cocktail Weinie Circuit, which makes worry about the continued relavance of political blogging. If you guys start socializing with the same insulated yahoos who populate the the op-ed pages how long before the pigs are sitting at the farm table?

Posted by: AJ | Oct 20, 2007 5:32:48 PM

And now we get the other b/s. here's wiki on the NY Senate race and what happened:


She still by the way underperformed Gore.

Here too is NY's make up with regard to Democratic races:


Also, who here believes NY is like the rest of the country?

Piece of advice- try this stuff offline- online it just doesn't fly unless you are an A list blogger wanting to be accepted by the Democratic establishment or someone who is already a true believer. Skeptics check what you post.

Posted by: akaison | Oct 20, 2007 5:36:36 PM

Who knew by the way that Bush could run a third term. When did we change the Constitution?

Posted by: akaison | Oct 20, 2007 5:37:55 PM

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