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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

A (very smart) reader writes in:

There is another important strategic implication of choosing Hillary Clinton now. Three of the worries/concerns that people had about Clinton would be that she would fire up the Republican anti-Clinton machines, in times of both money and energy as well as do the thing that John McCain couldn’t do–unite the Republican party.

Continuing:

Well, we can draw at least three conclusions.
1. Clearly McCain has been able–for the most part–to unify his party. Now that may change depending on his VP pick, but chances are the pick will be fairly conservative (in both senses of the word.)
2. Clearly much of the anti-Clinton machine has already turned their sights–predictably–on Obama. That machine has latched onto the Obama as other/celebrity/whatever attack and will be relentless about it, aided and abetted by a docile media.
3. Clinton’s presence may be able to gin up Republican fundraising…except, because they are taking public financing, the McCain campaign will have precisely one week to both collect AND spend that money. In short, absent some increase in RNC money and possibly 527 money, for the most part McCain’s advantage here would be completely neutralized by the clock. If Hillary had been the VP nominee all summer long the Republicans would be dining out on this–but now they simply would not have enough time to do it.
As for the turnout, I would have to imagine that any increases in Republican turnout would be matched or bested by older female voters turning out for their hero.

The case for picking Clinton doesn’t have all that much to do with Obama’s deteriorating poll numbers — although you can certainly make a separate argument based on the electoral math. Rather, it’s that the Republicans have shown their hand — and made it clear that they aren’t going to be running any sort of nice, safe campaign where Obama coasts to victory while the base stays asleep.

In fact, I’d go one step further than my reader. I think that if Obama picks Clinton, the Republicans are likely to overplay their hand. One thing that Obama has not really been able to do is to generate some organic level of backlash when he is attacked. This is separate and distinct from the notion of “fighting back”; it is voters stepping in and refereeing the match themselves. Voters recognize that McCain has gone negative but they aren’t really punishing him for it — his favorables haven’t moved at all. Why not? I think it has to do with the nature of Obama: he is new, he is confident to the point of being arrogant, and up until recently, he has been leading. To the extent there is any genius in the “celebrity” line of attack, it’s that nobody feels much sympathy when celebrities are made fun of (well, except for this guy); it is a sort of sport to try and pierce their bubble.

With Clinton, on the other hand, voters naturally want to come to her defense — and overzealous attempts to whip the Republican base into a frenzy will be counteracted with outrage from significant numbers of older and working-class women.

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