Let’s Talk About Hillary Clinton’s Electability

In spite of my earlier call to arms, I keep seeing sniveling weenies all over social media warning that we must vote for Hillary Clinton or face a Trump or Cruz presidency. Because only Hillary Clinton could win that general election against a broken Republican machine and an extremist who is favored by, it says in an article, fewer than 15 percent of all registered voters.

That’s right, folks. Even Trump supporters are a fraction of a fraction of a fraction. Only 23 percent of all registered voters are Republican. If you add independents who probably lean Republican you’re up to maybe 39 percent. Of those, about 33 percent support Trump. And that tells us … well, you work it out. I can’t do math.

See also Nate Silver, Donald Trump Is Really Unpopular With General Election Voters.

But against this alleged behemoth, we are told, only Hillary Clinton can prevail. So we must nominate her whether we like her or not.


Hillary Clinton has won two general elections in her life, both for senator of New York. Let’s look.

In 2000, she won against a largely unknown congressman named Rick Lazio. But originally her opponent was Rudy Giuliani. It was a close race; the polls swung back and forth, favoring one and then the other. Let it be added that Giuliani was not exactly beloved in New York City at that time; people were pretty much over him. But then in May 2000 Giuliani dropped out, mostly because of marital scandals that had been an open secret for some time. Five months before election day the Republicans chose the 40-something Lazio to take his place. (Why Lazio I do not remember; perhaps no one else was available.)

Lazio ran a flat-footed campaign, and Clinton defeated him fairly easily, 55 to 43 percent. He left the House after 2001 and at some point went to work for JP Morgan Chase.

In 2006 Hillary Clinton ran for re-election nearly unopposed. Oh, she had an opponent, a former mayor of Yonkers named John Spencer.  Spencer was invisible. I lived in New York and couldn’t have told you a Republican was running against her. Clinton raised nearly $36 million for her re-election campaign. Spencer had less than $6 million.  The New York Times wrote of that race,

Hillary Clinton is running in a phantom race for the Senate, pitted against an unknown, unqualified opponent. In the unlikely event that New Yorkers ever learn what John Spencer’s views are, most would find them far too conservative. It’s a measure of the haplessness of Mr. Spencer’s campaign that the Republican nominee has been dogged by rumors that his real aim is to prepare the ground for an attempt to regain his old job as mayor of Yonkers.

Further, in 2006 the Republican Party in New York was in meltdown. In the 2006 elections, the Democrats came very close to sweeping every state race. Any Democrat could have defeated Spencer without breaking a sweat.  Why spend $36 million? About $10 million of her $36 million war chest was saved for her 2008 presidential bid, I believe, but why spend even $26 million? To run up the numbers?

Here is an intriguing bit about that election, from Larry Sabato:

It was not so long ago that the GOP ruled the roost in New York, led by politicians such as Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits. But over the last decade or two, it has become about as reliably Democratic as any state in the country. Republicans have not carried New York in presidential voting since 1984, have not captured a Senate seat since 1992, and since 2000 have seen their number of House seats dwindle across the state from 12 to six. To boot, the Democratic registration advantage, which was barely 1 million voters two decades ago, had swelled to more than 2.3 million by early this year. In short, New York is now a state where any credible Democrat runs with a stiff wind at his or her back.

As such, the more intriguing comparison is not Clinton against her Republican rivals, but Hillary as measured against the vote-getting performances of her Democratic ticketmates. And in 2000 and 2006, she trailed the top of the party’s ticket in New York each time. In 2000, Democratic presidential standard-bearer Al Gore took 60 percent of the statewide vote, while Clinton drew 55 percent. In 2006, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer polled 70 percent, while Clinton garnered 67 percent. And Spitzer, the state’s hard-charging attorney general at the time, was running an open-seat race to succeed retiring Republican Gov. George Pataki, while Clinton had the advantage of incumbency in seeking reelection.

In order to get those results, she had to massively out-spend the invisible John Spencer. And, of course, after Hillary Clinton blew a huge advantage in the 2008 primaries and lost to Barack Obama, she was appointed Secretary of State. So 2006 was her last winning election.

As we have seen in her presidential bids, she can be to campaigning what Pat Boone was to rock. She’s not the natural politician her husband is. She can be very good sometimes; she can be appallingly tone deaf sometimes (Henry Kissinger? Seriously?).

But if her entire sales pitch is based on her alleged invincibility as a political candidate, we may want to re-think this.

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He’s Got This

Do read Andrew O’Hehir today:

According to numerous scholars who have weighed in since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend, historical and constitutional precedent indicates that the president of the United States is elected for a four-year term, and does not stop being president until he or she, um, actually leaves office. That’s a hot take on a controversial topic, I know! It’s nearly as confusing as the question of who was president at the time of the 9/11 attacks, which Marco Rubio seems to think took place during some extended Bill Clinton prequel to “The Hangover,” while George W. Bush wore funny costumes and did non-alcoholic Jell-O shots and kept forgetting he had taken the oath of office.

Spotted on Twitter: “Am I now allowed to argue that Senators up for reelection this year are lame ducks who don’t deserve a vote on SCOTUS nom?”

After news of the death of Antonin Scalia, even the professional pundits expressed no surprise that Republicans let not a nanosecond pass before they promised to obstruct whomever the President nominated.  As O’Hehir says, paralysis is the new norm. But I think they’re still clueless about what President Obama might do about it.

I keep reading opinion pieces — and not just by conservatives — that the President ought to nominate someone very safe and moderate. Are they not paying attention? At this point the President could nominate the corpse of Robert Bork and the Right would still call him unacceptable. Any nomination made by President Obama will be unacceptable to them, by virtue of being President Obama’s nomination.

So why self-compromise? And, I suspect, the President will not self-compromise. I think he’s gone past that now. He will nominate whomever he damn well pleases, and then he will sit back and let the Right tear itself apart over it.  Because some of them will notice eventually that obstructionism doesn’t always work in their favor.

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We May Have a Winner!

Tom Friedman just vaulted into first place for the Marie Antoinette Privileged-class Obliviousness Award for 2016. And he’s set a high mark, folks. Can the perennial favorite, David Brooks, best him? Stay tuned!

Update: Catch the comments at the New York Times. Friedman is being skewered.

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