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A Few More Hillary Hypotheticals

Color me skeptical about this:

As voters left the polls on Election Day, many were asked how they would have voted if the election match-up were between Hillary Clinton and John McCain rather than Barack Obama and McCain. 52 percent said they would have backed the former Democratic candidate; 41 percent would have voted for McCain, wider than Obama’s 7-point margin over McCain.

If America had woken up last Tuesday morning and magically found Hillary Clinton’s name on the ballot in lieu of Barack Obama, might she have won by 11 points? Perhaps. She certainly proved herself to be an exceptionally compelling candidate, even if her execution and staffing decisions were sometimes wanting.

But what would Clinton’s numbers have looked like if she had actually endured … you know … a campaign?

Would she have handled the financial crisis with as much aplomb as Obama did? Probably. Would she have been so capable and reassuring in the debates? Almost certainly. Would she have had an easier time resonating with working class voters in places like Missouri and West Virginia? Yes.

But would she have managed the media as deftly as Obama did? Perhaps not. Would Republican attacks on Bill Clinton and Kazakhstan been as counterproductive to their cause as their effort to link Barack Obama and Bill Ayers? Maybe — or maybe not. Would she have matched Obama’s field organization and raised as much money? Doubtful.

Would her campaign have had the same steely confidence as Obama’s did after the Republican convention bounce? Unlikely. Would she have delivered as strong a speech as Mr. Obama did in Denver? Iffy. Would she have catalyzed near-universal turnout in the black community? No.

If Hillary Clinton had headed the Democratic ticket, would John McCain have been dumb enough to name Sarah Palin as his running mate? One would hope not. Might McCain have been smart enough to hire Mike Murphy rather than Steve Schmidt, campaign on themes of bipartisanship, honor, and good government, and appeal as much as possible to independent voters (as the political climate dictated that he ought to have done in the first place)? Who knows. He just might have figured it out.

And what would Clinton’s numbers have looked like after the Republicans had gotten done accusing her of being a socialist, a puppet for her husband, and an all-around conniving you-know-what?

Hillary Clinton might have beaten John McCain by more than Barack Obama did. She also might have lost to him. I doubt you’ll find too many Democrats who would be willing to take that trade.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.