A note on electability

Peripheral Fandangan and unintentional matchmaker Jennifer Granick assembled this slate card to give you some advice for the upcoming election this coming week.  Take a moment and read it as a first step to forming your own opinions.

A number of my Democrat friends, including Jennifer mentioned above, are basically saying, "I like Obama, but I’m voting for Clinton because I think she’s more ‘electable’."  Note that Jennifer has other reasons for voting for Hillary, but I’m glossing over them for this discussion.

Voting for someone based upon electability over another candidate you like more in a tight primary bothers me on two levels:

  1. It implies you’re not voting for the candidate you think would do the best job.  Can this possibly be the purpose of a democracy?   
  2. It implies you actually have the ability to ascertain someone’s electability, something not even political consultants or veteran political reporters can do.

It’s this second one that bothers me the most.  I have met and work with people that know how elections really work.  They understand microtargeting, "walking around" money, how GOTV works, and message fatigue.  They know how and why you staff the spin room (and what it is).  They understand the FEC regs well enough to know how to keep opposition researchers at arm’s length, and they know what a 527 is.  They understand the concept of "coordination" and "independent expenditure" and know how to have a conversation with someone else who’s on their side but without "coordinating".

In short, they know how to win elections, and they therefore are best positioned to opine on Obama electability.  And here’s the big problem.

Nobody that I’ve seen opine that Hillary’s electability is greater than Obama’s actually knows anything about what I’ve said above.  I understand at a surface level most of these concepts and I know that I’m not qualified to make such an assessment.

For people not in a tight race, this is a no brainer.  I could have told you Edwards wasn’t going to win when he lost the last election.  This cycle I could tell you he wasn’t going to win when he got out-fundraised.  Then, when he failed to win any caucuses or primaries, it’s obvious even to non-politically-savvy observers that he’s headed to Georgia to join Jimmy Carter on the Habitat trail.

But for a candidate who’s shown he can raise the money, win the states, and hold his own in a debate?  That’s a viable contender, and you’re basically knee-capping him based upon a judgement you’re not qualified to make.

Vote for who you want to be president, but don’t sacrifice your precious vote based upon your judgement of electability. 


  1. dl004d on February 1, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Yep. It’s exactly the opposite of what your friends seem to think — there are plenty of conservative Republicans who won’t be particularly motivated to vote for McCain.

    … unless Hillary is on the ballot, in which case every last one of them will show up on election day to vote against her.