The “Told You So” Calculation

By Kelly Moeller

May 29, 2008 11:59am

"Have you seen the general election polls lately?" Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, asks in a new email fundraising pitch. "They consistently show that we’ll beat John McCain in November. In a national head-to-head match and in the critical swing states, the numbers show I’m the best candidate to take back the White House for Democrats. That is why it’s critical that we stay in this race and keep fighting for every last vote. We can win the nomination if we extend our popular vote lead, and that means putting everything we have into the final races. With just a few days before the voters in Puerto Rico head to the polls, our campaign is working hard — and your support is making the difference."

Chris Cillizza at The Fix postulates that Clinton and her husband "seem to be laying the groundwork — whether unconsciously or consciously — to go back to Democratic voters if Barack Obama comes up short in November with a very concise message: ‘Told you so.’"

Cillizza notes that Clinton herself in that Argus Leader editorial board meeting said she found calls for her to drop out "curious because it is unprecedented in history. I don’t understand it and between my opponent and his camp and some in the media, there has been this urgency to end this and you know historically that makes no sense, so I find it a bit of a mystery."

Bill Clinton over the weekend, noting the electoral math arguments we’ve pointed out before (most significantly that Clinton out-polls Obama significantly in Florida and Ohio), said "she is winning the general election today and he is not, according to all the evidence. And I have never seen anything like it. I have never seen a candidate treated so disrespectfully just for running."

I don’t know that comparing Clinton’s numbers to Obama’s right now is fair. Obama has been getting attacked fairly regularly by McCain, and until recently by Clinton. Conversely, I think it’s fair to say that Obama has been unable to fully attack Clinton on a number of issues on which she’d be vulnerable to GOP attacks during a general election — Clinton scandals, Bill Clinton’s business dealings.

On the other hand, Obama has benefited from some embarrassingly obsequious media coverage, and Clinton from some of the roughest treatment a candidate’s experienced since the Nixon years.

Some supporters of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, felt this way in 2000, too — that Al Gore would beat George W. Bush, that the Republican party was nominating their weaker candidate.

I guess we’ll see.

- jpt

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