The Democratic primary is over, but what a long, strange trip it’s been. Even though Barack Obama mathematically sealed the deal months ago, Hillary Clinton made good on her promise to see it through until the last vote was cast. So what happens now?
In most cases, the party would rally behind the nominee and move forward, but this is not most cases. According to exit polls, many Clinton voters said that they would either not vote or vote for the Republican nominee, John McCain, if Obama was the nominee or if Obama did not at the very least put Clinton on the ticket as Vice President.
Unfortunately, Clinton’s action may have made the latter scenario impossible. A primary campaign is always brutal, but Clinton went out of her way to paint Obama as inexperienced and unready for the presidency, going so far as to say that even McCain may be better.
This culminated with Clinton refusing to concede after the final primaries in South Dakota and Montana, and threatening to dispute the votes in Michigan and Florida, two potential swing states in November.
Most of the fuss has centered on female Clinton supporters who claimed her loss on misogyny. While this may be a nice talking point in the media, the numbers do not add up.
As Frank Rich pointed out in a recent New York Times, Al Gore won the female vote by 11 points in 2000. John Kerry won the demographic by three in 2004. Barack Obama currently has a lead of between 13-19 points over McCain.
Other signs also point to an Obama victory in November. Obama leads McCain by an average of six points in a variety of polls, better than George W Bush did against John Kerry throughout the 2004 campaign.
Nate Silver (aka Poblano from the Web site 538.com), who has been prescient with his primary predictions, sees Obama winning handily, 308 electoral votes to McCain’s 229.
Of course these numbers do not take into consideration either candidate’s VP pick. The choices for McCain seem pretty simple. He could take Mike Huckabee, the GOP runner-up, to bring back the religious voters who have eluded him thus far, or Mitt Romney, who could heal McCain’s rift with big business.
The smart money, however, is on Democrat-cum-Independent and fellow Iraq war hawk Joe Lieberman. Not only does this help McCain maintain his maverick image, which he was forced to sacrifice during the primary, but it could also shore up the Jewish vote in Florida, a must-win state for McCain.
Obama, on the other hand, has a much tougher choice. If he puts Clinton on the ticket, he looks as if he is folding under pressure. If he rebuffs Clinton, he risks losing her more hard-core supporters who think he won the nomination unfairly.
Even writing off Florida, this could have repercussions in Michigan and Ohio. Obama can lose one of those states, but not both.John Edwards and Al Gore have both been polling well as second chair, but Edwards has ruled out any chance of running for that slot again, and Gore is equally unlikely. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is on the short list, as is New Mexico’s Bill Richardson.
The former could possibly heal the wounds among female Clinton supporters, while the latter may boost the Latino vote, especially in the West.
Barack Obama seems to be the favorite in the upcoming presidential election. McCain’s age and his embrace of Bush’s policies, especially regarding the war in Iraq, do not make him an ideal candidate. Obama, on the other hand, is endorsing a popular notion of change.
The deck is stacked in favor of the Democrats. How they play their cards will determine the fate of the nation.