Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Obama, Clinton, and the 50 State vs Blue State strategies

One of the big debates in the run up to the 2006 election was whether the Demcoratic Party should try to fund competitive candidates in as wide a range of races in as many states as possible (the 50 state strategy) or whether they should do what they did in 2000, 2002, and 2004 - focus resources on those areas where they know they have strong support and get the base out.

If you look at the primary results, there may be indications of how Obama and Clinton would campaign in November. With the special exceptions of the Clintons home state of Arkansas and its immediate neighbors to the north, east and west (Missouri, Tennesee and Oklahoma), Clinton has lost - and lost big - in most of the states in the middle of the country and the south (Florida and Michigan shouldn't count in this strategy analysis for obvious reasons). It appears that after the South Carolina primary, the Clinton campaign has addopted a "big state" strategy - largely abandonning states in the Midwest, South and even the Pacific Northwest.

Obama has won states of every region, size and proportion of Democratic registration and has competed vigorously even in states he lost.

Do these two observations add up to hints about November? Are Demcorats not just chosing their candidate but also chosing a strategy? Does picking Clinton mean a campaign that hopes for this map (1992) but may end up with this map (2000)? Does picking Obama mean a campaign that tries for the Democrat's version of this map (1904 - but with Obama playing the role of Teddy Roosevelt)?

What would either strategy mean for the Congressional races "down ticket?" Would a "get out the base and hang on" strategy help the Democrats win Congressional seats? It is questions like that this that have lead many of the "super delegates" from states where Democrats face fierce competition from Republicans to endorse Obama rather than Clinton. They seem to believe that a Clinton candidacy will leave them twisting in the wind - exposed to the full force of the famous Republican vitriol towards the Clintons.


Raised By Republicans said...

Sorry, the links I pasted only take you to the main results page. I indicated the years of elections. Just select the appropriate year on the "general by year" toggle switch to view the corresponding map.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I understand omitting Arkansas from Clinton's victory list as a special case, since it was her former home state. But I suspect her victories in Tennessee and Oklahoma--and her narrow loss in Missouri--represent more of those states' similarity in demographics and politics with Arkansas, rather than loyalty by proxy.

I am not certain it is fair yet to say that Obama has won states of every region. Obama won no states in the Southwest. California, Nevada, and Arizona all went for Clinton--and even New Mexico is at best a tie for Obama.

I also question whether it is entirely fair to say Obama has won states of every size. Other than Illinois, which in reciprocal fairness we should discount as his home state, Obama's largest victory was in Georgia, ranked #9 in population.

Raised By Republicans said...

Obama won more delegates from Nevada than Clinton did.

Georgia and Minnesota are large states in the context of the Demcoratic primaries if not in the General.

As for the Tennesse, Oklahoma, Missouri thing. It's possible they are similar. But don't underestimate the importance of geographic proximity to one's home base. Iowa was swarming with Obama activists from Illinois for example I imagine the same would be true in Memphis, Oklahoma City, and Southern Missouri.

But aside from quibles about details in the framing what about the substance of the argument that Clinton seems to have largely abandoned large numbers of states in favor a few bigger states and/or states in which she has a built in advantage?

The Law Talking Guy said...

Obama won Utah and Colorado, and almost tied in New Mexico. This means he "won no states in the SW" if you limit the southwest to AZ, NM, NV and CA.

I'm not sure Obama victories in the red states portend the ability of Dems to carry them in the general. I am fairly certain that his victories there indicate that the Congressional and Senatorial candidates there are worried that they will lose badly if HRC is at the top of the ticket, while they believe they can survive or even thrive with Obama.

It's also not 100% true that HRC is winning all the blue states. Minnesota, Washington, Delaware, and Connecticut are all good blue states, even if Illinois is excluded as a 'special case.' Obama will also likely win Maryland and Hawaii shortly, both very blue states.

I'm more interested in his victories in (contested) SWING states. There, Obama has a good track record: Lose/tied in NM and won/tied in Missouri; won in Iowa; won in Colorado. Keep an eye on upcoming swing states: Ohio, Maine, Wisconsin.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The strongest trend I see is that Hillary does poorly in caucuses. Her sole caucus victory to date has been in Nevada which--as you indicate--she won only in terms of the raw vote count.

On the other hand, Clinton does well in primaries, the larger the better. Clinton has won all the large primaries so far except for Obama's home state of Illinois. Although Georgia is more powerful this year because Michigan and Florida are excluded, in terms of size it would have been #11. So I don't think it really deflates the trend that Clinton does well in the large primaries. It just so happens there aren't quite so many this year.

I see that Clinton has chosen to concentrate her resources on winning the primaries--and she is fighting for all of them. Obama has been able to use his enthusiastic fan base to overwhelm the small turnout in caucuses, especially closed ones. But this tactic does not succeed in the larger primaries, where the more traditional coalitions prevail.

The exception is Obama's strong regional Southern/Mid-Atlantic showing from the African-American vote. That may be what tips the delegate count ultimately in Obama's favor. I think Clinton must win the three largest primaries remaining--Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania--if she is to win the nomination. No doubt she is concentrating on those.

She could be the first nominee to win without winning any caucuses. If so, I have a feeling the national committee will push to transform more caucuses into primaries. And incidentally, if Hillary can make the case that the caucus format is unrepresentative and easily manipulated, she can make the case for including more superdelegates as a counterweight...

The Law Talking Guy said...

Dr.S is right that TX, Ohio, and PA are crucial. Obama must win one of them to resolve the doubts that he can't win elections. Ohio above all matters.