Clinton makes appeal to superdelegates

In a letter and memo, Hillary Clinton lays out again her case for why she's a stronger general election candidate than Barack Obama.

Topics: 2008 Elections, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, War Room, John McCain, R-Ariz.,

Hillary Clinton may be running for commander in chief, but over the past two days she has shown that she hasn’t forgotten how to be a lawyer. In what appear to be her closing arguments to superdelegates, Tuesday her campaign sent a letter to superdelegates that claimed she is a stronger general election candidate than Barack Obama. Just in case superdelegates hadn’t understood her point, the campaign followed up on the letter on Wednesday, sending out a detailed, 11-page memo advancing the same suggestion. The memo included polls, charts and even Electoral College maps produced by Karl Rove.

The letter and memo contain many justifications for the argument about Clinton’s superior electability. Superdelegates (and War Room readers) will probably find these justifications familiar by this stage in the campaign. In the letter, she asserts, “More than 17 million people have supported me in my effort to become the Democratic nominee — more people than have ever voted for a potential nominee in the history of our party.” Though she does not say this in the letter, that number must include voters from the disputed Michigan and Florida primaries. Getting to the heart of her case, Clinton argues:

Recent polls and election results show a clear trend: I am ahead in states that have been critical to victory in the past two elections. From Ohio, to Pennsylvania, to West Virginia and beyond, the results of recent primaries in battleground states show that I have strong support from the regions and demographics Democrats need to take back the White House. I am also currently ahead of Senator McCain in Gallup national tracking polls, while Senator Obama is behind him … Ultimately, the point of our primary process is to pick our strongest nominee — the one who would be the best President and Commander in Chief, who has the greatest support from members of our party, and who is most likely to win in November.

The memo presents a copious amount of polling data illustrating Clinton’s strong support from Latinos, rural voters, the working class and women. It also repeats an argument she has made before, namely that during the primaries, she won 16 of the 20 toughest districts for House Democrats in 2004.



Even though both the letter and the memo trumpet Clinton’s superiority, she does strike a rather conciliatory note at the end of the letter. Stating that she is staying in this race to “help unite the Democratic Party,” Clinton then writes: “In the end, I am committed to unifying this party. What Senator Obama and I share is so much greater than our differences; and no matter who wins this nomination, I will do everything I can to bring us together and move us forward.”

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson was asked if the Clinton campaign’s general attitude about electability was meant to suggest that Obama could not beat presumptive Republican John McCain in the general election. Wolfson denied this, saying, “Right now, our map against John McCain looks better than Barack Obama’s. We’re beating John McCain in the Electoral College in polling. Barack Obama is not. That does not mean that if Barack Obama is the nominee, he won’t be able to win.

“There is a difference, however, between someone who could win and someone who will win. And what we argue to superdelegates is that Senator Clinton is winning and will win if you look at polling now and project out forward. Senator Obama is not.”

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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