Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Kid Gloves and Non-Traditional Constituencies

A few weeks ago, Bill Clinton chided the media for what he thought was the media's kid glove treatment of Barack Obama. Never fond of criticism, the media retorted with several news cycles worth of "Why Can't Hillary Control Husband?" and "Bill to Innocent Reporter: 'Shame On You!'". But like many things the media overblows, there is actually a kernel of truth to the former President's accusations.

Today news analysts have been talking about John McCain's multiple decisive victories in yesterday's primaries, but they have been withholding their declaration of McCain's inevitability as the Republican Party presidential nominee, citing that he won most of his big victories in blue states, or states that would not support a Republican nominee in the general election no matter how many tax cuts he voted against. This is seen as a negative against McCain, the thinking goes. He'll get blown out in states where he's actually popular in the primaries, and people won't vote for him in states where he's not popular in the primaries. But the same analysts have said that Barack Obama is the most electable candidate on the Democratic side because he is popular in traditionally red states.

While Hillary Clinton was dancing last night with the big shining jewels of the Democratic party such as California, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts, Obama was slumming it with the red state puu-puu platter of Alaska, Alabama, Georgia, North Dakota, Utah and Idaho. Of the 27 states that have had Democratic primaries or caucuses so far*, 17 voted for Bush in 2000, and Obama has won 10 of them to Clinton's 7. If you look at the electoral votes of those states with Democratic primaries and caucuses so far, there are 143 red state electoral votes and 178 blue state electoral votes, if you count red states as "States that voted for George W. Bush in 2000". While Clinton and Obama have nearly evenly split the red state electoral votes (73 for Obama, 70 for Clinton), Hillary Clinton has an overwhelming total of blue state electoral votes (130 to 48). If you define red state / blue state by the 2004 election, the split is even more lopsided (134 to 41).

Using the same analysis for the Republican side, McCain has won 67 red state electoral votes (most of which come from Florida), compared to Huckabee's 46 and Romney's 31. McCain however has won a ton of blue state electoral votes, 132, compared to Huckabee's 7 and Romney's 43.

So if winning 132 blue state electoral vote equivalents hurts Republican McCain, why doesn't losing 130 of them hurt Democrat Obama in the media's eyes? Is it kid gloves? Or am I just doing way too much math on things that don't actually matter?

*Not counting New Mexico, where yet another hangup in the vote counting had delayed results. There's always a problem with voting in New Mexico for some reason *cough corruption cough cough*, but that's a post for another time.

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