Clinton Campaign Believes Democrats Can’t Win Red States in November

Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Clinton campaign, said something on MSNBC yesterday morning that flabbergasted me and gives Democrats one more reason to think that Barack Obama is more electable than Hillary Clinton.  After talking about how Clinton had won big states like Michigan, Florida, New York, and California and expects to win other big states like Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania, he made the following statement:

“Some of the other states that Senator Obama has won — they’re great states, but we’re not going to win them in the general election.”

What states was McAuliffe talking about? Clearly he was talking about the “Red” states that voted for George Bush in 2000 and 2004.  As I mentioned in a post on 2/6/2008 after Super Tuesday, Obama has won more Red states than Clinton including Iowa (which voted for Bush in 2004), South Carolina, Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Virginia.

McAuliffe’s statement makes it clear that the Clinton campaign would follow the same failed strategy that the Democrats tried in 2000 and 2004 which is to focus on the Northeast, West Coast, and Great Lakes states along with a few big battleground states like Ohio and Florida.  This is a recipe guaranteed to fail in 2008 and give us 4-8 more years of gridlock in Washington since we would end up with McCain in the White House and the Democrats in control of Congress.  The Democratic party needs to court voters in all 50 states and reject the temptation to cherry pick.  This has been recognized by the party leadership and is ensconced in Howard Dean’s 50 State Strategy which seeks to win elections at every level in every region of the country.  It’s hard to believe that the supposedly top quality political operatives running Clinton’s campaign don’t understand this.

One must be careful not to read too much into Obama’s victories in the Red state primaries since they primarily measured the preferences of Red state Democrats. However, I think it is fair to assume that Democrats in Red states have more in common with Red state independent and Republican voters than Democrats in states like New York and California.  A Democrat who wins over Red state Democrats is more likely to appeal to other Red state voters.  Obama has consistently shown that he intends to win votes from Democrats, independents, and Republicans.  He has talked about this in many stump speeches.  More importantly, an article in The New York Times yesterday reported that the Obama campaign set up offices in Red states like Idaho, North Dakota, and Utah months before their caucuses while the Clinton campaign essentially ignored these states.  (This is further evidence that Obama’s campaign management has been superior to Clinton’s campaign management.  See my previous post for more on this.)   The fact that Obama actively targeted Red states is really not that surprising; after all, it was Obama’s electrifying keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that turned Obama into a political superstar.  That speech is famous for these remarks:

“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.  There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

“The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an “awesome God” in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”

(It is interesting that people seem to remember his saying “There are no Red States, There are no Blue States” even though he did not actually say that in this speech.  The confusion probably arises because he started saying things like that in his 2008 campaign speeches.  For instance, he said “We are not a collection of Red States and Blue States — We are the United States of America” in his Iowa caucus victory speech.  Both speeches can be seen and heard here.)

McAuliffe’s comments on MSNBC yesterday together with the fact that the Clinton campaign has been unwilling to compete in many Red states during the primary season make it clear that Clinton would also fail to compete in most Red states during the general election if she won the Democratic nomination.  That is not a recipe for the Democrats to win the White House in November.  Democrats who want to end gridlock in Washington need to recognize this and support Obama. This is especially true of the superdelegates who will ultimately select the nominee in August since neither Clinton nor Obama will have enough pledged delegates to lock up the nomination.

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2 Responses to “Clinton Campaign Believes Democrats Can’t Win Red States in November”

  1. Jim Cusick Says:

    Terry McAuliffe is tiresome and I believe is a negative for the Clinton campaign. He brings back too many memories of how President Clinton was also “Slick Willie”.

    Senator Obama does bring a fresh perspective to the race, but once he wins the nomination, he needs to also provide some information on what his fresh perspective looks like in the way of policy proposals. Both the Democrats and Republicans have spent too much time “cherry picking” and need to reach out to all Americans. If Senator Obama does that, he may be able to win the election.

    As far as gridlock goes…I am all for it! It worked best in the late 1990’s with the Congress (which has the authority to tax and spend) balanced by the President, resulting in a balanced budget. When the Democrats (or more recently) the Republicans control both the Congress and Presidency, spending gets out of control!

    Cheers, Jim

  2. rberlind Says:

    Obama has presented some fairly detailed proposals for dealing with various issues on his website.

    I disagree about gridlock being a good thing, especially at this point in time. Split government does force some compromises that can restrain spending, but we currently face enormously challenging problems such as climate change, energy independence, extremist terrorism, inflationary healthcare costs, the erosion of our industrial economy, and chronic trade and budgetary deficits that are unsustainable. I believe these problems are more likely to be addressed if the House, Senate, and Presidency are all in the hands of a single party with sufficient majorities in Congress to actually pass the President’s proposed policies.

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