Thursday, April 24, 2008


I think I've said this a hundred times, as have many others. But this article in Thursday's Times is a good moment to revisit the point. As Patrick Healy explains, it is simply a fallacy to claim that winning a state's Democratic primary means you're more likely to win that state in the general election or that your opponent can't win it.

The dynamics are simply different between general elections and primaries. You have on the one hand patterns and preferences that Democratic voters show for different candidates in Democratic primaries. Then you have the separate question of whether these same voters will vote for the Democratic or the Republican nominee in the general. One is simply not predictive of the other. It could be -- if one candidate's voters simply refuse to vote for the other candidate. But who wins a primary doesn't tell you that.

And it's really not a big mystery that the argument doesn't hold up because it wasn't devised or conceived as an electoral argument. It's a political argument -- one that only really came into operation at the point at which the Clinton campaign realized that it was far enough behind that it's path to the nomination required making the argument to superdelegates that she's electable and Obama is not.
It actually doesn't matter whether the public thinks this is true right now. I'm just hoping that the superdelegates are smart enough to see through this fallacy, and think in terms of electoral efficacy - if that's the sole reason for them to exist.

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