Friday, March 14, 2008

Syllogism: If (A) Obama Can't Beat McCain and (B) Clinton and Obama Are Evenly Matched Against McCain, Therefore (C) ...

Gallup has a new poll that shows Barack Obama now running no better against John McCain than Hillary Clinton does:

(Click to enlarge.)

And now we have this from the Clinton campaign:

Though the campaign later argued that he hadn't said it, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's chief campaign strategist told reporters this morning that Sen. Barack Obama "can't win the general election."

...[Mark Penn] says Obama "really can't win the general election." ... he also says that "if Barack Obama can't win" in Pennsylvania, "how could he win the general election?" ...

I've thought of Obama as more electable than Clinton, and he was, or so it seemed, but I'm struck by the way the polling numbers have changed recently, as tracked by Real Clear Politics (and pointed out yesterday by A.J. Strata over on the right side of the blogosphere).

Go here to the Obama numbers and you see that Obama's significant lead over McCain all through February is down to pretty much a dead heat. (Scroll up and down for full results.)

But Clinton's rise (here) is from a period extending back to early December in which she mostly trailed McCain to, well, pretty much a dead heat.

So if Obama is unelectable and Clinton runs no better against McCain than Obama does, doesn't that make them both unelectable?

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait says Clinton is in the process of making Obama unelectable. The Clintonites would argue that they're hitting Obama with what he'd get from a Republican. The counterargument to that is that Clinton's attacks carry more weight with Democratic voters.

I'm worried that, yeah, Obama's being made much harder to elect -- by a candidate who's never going to be easy to elect. If she were up by 7, 8, 10 points against McCain right now, she'd have a much stronger argument. But she isn't.

Of course, is that if you go back to 2007 polls, Clinton and Obama were both beating McCain by healthy margins. Can we get back to those days, when the only question on most people's minds was which Democrat would beat which Republican? I just don't know, though I find it hard to imagine.

(Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.)