March 5, 2008
To: Interested Parties
From: Harold Ickes
Re: The Path to the Presidency
With last night’s victories in Ohio and Texas, one thing is clear: the momentum has swung back to Hillary Clinton. Voters in both states agreed that Hillary Clinton would be the best Commander-in-Chief and the strongest steward of our economy. In fact, according to last night’s polls, those who decided who to vote for in the last three days overwhelmingly favored Hillary [CNN exit polls, 3/4/08]. It’s time for a second look.
Ohio is the barometer: Hillary was successful in Ohio, the state that for the last quarter century has picked our president. As everyone knows: As Ohio goes, so goes our country. Historically, it’s one of the bellwether states and it decided the last election. And the demographics of the upcoming contests in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky closely mirror those in Ohio. Hillary looks strong in all four states.
In recent years, every President has won two of the three following states: Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Hillary has already won two of those and, according to all polls, is leading in the third – Pennsylvania.
This race is extremely close and more than 5 million Democrats are likely to vote. After 28 million votes have been counted, the popular vote contest in the Democratic primary is within one-tenth of one percent. Applying the same level of turnout to the remaining contests, there are still more than 5 million Democratic voters – 17 percent of the total – who are likely to participate in this contested primary race. After 41 primaries and caucuses, the delegate count is within roughly 2 percent.
HRC (% of total)
Obama (% of total)
Remaining (total %)
Popular Vote (incl MI and FL)
5,758,698 (est) (17%)
In the primaries, Hillary has demonstrated that she is the best positioned candidate to carry the core battleground states essential to a general election victory -- particularly the large industrial states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and the critical swing contests in Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and New Jersey.
The vetting of Obama has just begun. The press has only begun to scrutinize Senator Obama and his record. The corruption trial of Tony Rezko is getting underway this week, yet many questions about Obama’s relationship with him remain unanswered. Hillary, on the other hand, has withstood fifteen years of substantial media and Republican scrutiny, including many months of sharper scrutiny as the front-runner. If the primary contest ends prematurely and Obama is the nominee, Democrats may have a nominee who will be a lightening rod of controversy.
Several of Hillary's base constituencies (women, Hispanic, labor, elderly and under $75,000) are key to a Democratic victory in November. Senator Obama has not brought these voters out in the same numbers.
· The two groups that fueled President Bush’s victory in ‘04 were women and Hispanics, and they are among Hillary Clinton’s strongest supporters. From 2000 to 2004, Bush’s support among Hispanics rose from 35% to 44%. And Bush’s support among women rose from 43% to 48%. That five point gain among women and nine point gain among Latinos gave Bush his victory in 2004.
· Women reached an all-time presidential election high of 54% of voters in ’04. As a factual matter, an outpouring of women for the first woman president alone can win the election. Hillary leads all candidates among women.
· These political and demographic trends project positively into the general election and strongly favor Hillary.
The Red States: The central strategic argument of the Obama campaign is flawed. Senator Obama argues that his success in Democratic primary contests held in long-time Red States means he will carry those states in a general election. In reality, there are no “Red States” in a Democratic primary – there are only Democratic voters who live in Republican states and represent a small percentage of the general election population.
Of the eleven core Republican states that have gone to the polls, Sen. Obama has won ten: Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana. John Kerry lost each of these states by fifteen points or more.
· The last time a Democratic nominee won Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, Kansas, and Alaska in the general election was 1964.
· Even if Obama is “transcendent,” as his campaign has argued, the historic electoral trends and the current political environment suggest that translating those primary wins into November success will be close to impossible.
· In short: Hillary is better positioned to carry the battle ground states that Democrats need to win in November and Obama’s victories in deep red states do not .
Hillary is the only Democrat with the strength, leadership, and experience to defeat John McCain. Senator Clinton is seen as the best prepared to be Commander-in-Chief.
· Nationally, 57% say Hillary Clinton is best prepared to be president, 39% Obama [CBS/ NYT, February 24]
· Hillary Clinton is seen as best able to take on the Republicans on their own turf – national security and terrorism. She is seen as a strong and decisive leader (a seven point advantage over Obama nationally).
· Hillary is seen as the one who can get the job done – leading Obama nationally by 13 points [USA Today/ Gallup, 2/24].
Hillary is seen as the candidate to solve the country’s problems, leading Obama by 10 points [USA Today/ Gallup, 2/24].
John McCain will diminish any perceived advantage Obama has with independents. As has been widely discussed, one of John McCain’s key constituents is independents. And against McCain, Obama will be framed by the Republicans as too liberal (he was ranked by the National Journal as the most liberal Senator); untested on national security; and vulnerable on issues that would make him unelectable in November. These issues may be surmountable in a Democratic primary but will be an Achilles heel with independents in a general election.
The McCain Roadmap: McCain has already foreshadowed his campaign’s construct against Obama: His vulnerability is experience and judgment on national security.
McCain: Obama’s ‘meet, talk and hope approach’ is ‘dangerously naïve in international diplomacy.’ “Meet, talk, and hope may be a sound approach in a state legislature, but it is dangerously naive in international diplomacy where the oppressed look to America for hope and adversaries wish us ill.” [McCain, NYT’s The Caucus, 2/22/08]
McCain: Obama is an ‘inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan, and suggested sitting down without preconditions or clear purpose with enemies who support terrorists.’ “Each event poses a challenge and an opportunity. Will the next president have the experience -- the judgment, experience informs and the strength of purpose to respond to each of these developments in ways that strengthen our security and advance the global progress of our ideals? Or will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan, and suggested sitting down without preconditions or clear purpose with enemies who support terrorists and are intent on destabilizing the world by acquiring nuclear weapons? I think you know the answer to that question.” [Post-Wisconsin Primary Victory Speech, 2/19/08]
Steward of the economy. Hillary Clinton leads both John McCain and Barack Obama on the economy and health care. In the latest LA Times/Bloomberg poll (1/22), Hillary leads McCain 52/28 on health care and 43/34 on the economy.
Hillary leads Barack Obama on health care by 21 points nationally [USA Today/Gallup, 2/24].
Florida. There is an additional reality that must be considered – the 1.75 million voters in Florida whose votes will not be represented at the Democratic convention. How we handle this swing state will affect our Party’s potential of carrying it in November (Democrats lost Florida in 2004). This is a state where the playing field was level – all of the candidates had their names on the ballot and none campaigned in the state.
Michigan. Nearly 600,000 Democrats voted in Michigan, but right now their votes are not being counted. Democrats barely carried Michigan in 2004 (by only 3% -- 51 to 48). If our party refuses to let them participate in the convention, we will provide a political opportunity for the Republicans to win both Florida and Michigan. Recognizing their importance to Democratic success in November, Hillary has called for the delegates of both states to be seated at the convention.
Hillary has the money to compete. In February, the Clinton campaign raised approximately $35 million – averaging more than a million dollars a day. This deep level of support gives Hillary the resources she needs to compete between now and the Convention.