Who can win the big states?

A New York Times article states the obvious -- one of Hillary Clinton's key messages doesn't necessarily conform to reality.

Published April 24, 2008 2:21PM (EDT)

In Thursday's New York Times, Patrick Healy offers an analysis of one of the central rationales of Hillary Clinton's continuing campaign and finds it lacking. Clinton and her supporters have been arguing that her primary victories in big states show she'd do better in November than Barack Obama could, but as Healy writes, that's not necessarily true:

Yet for all of her primary night celebrations in the populous states, exit polling and independent political analysts offer evidence that Mr. Obama could do just as well as Mrs. Clinton among blocs of voters with whom he now runs behind. Obama advisers say he also appears well-positioned to win swing states and believe he would have a strong shot at winning traditional Republican states like Virginia.

According to surveys of Pennsylvania voters leaving the polls on Tuesday, Mr. Obama would draw majorities of support from lower-income voters and less-educated ones -- just as Mrs. Clinton would against Mr. McCain, even though those voters have favored her over Mr. Obama in the primaries.

Perhaps I'm just particularly sensitive to this after having been away from blogging and from the campaign for a of couple weeks, but when I first read this article it got me thinking about just how peculiar campaign coverage is.

Healy's article is sort of a "duh" moment for most people who follow presidential politics closely, or at least for most reporters who do. Obviously primaries are not the same thing as the general election, and obviously Clinton's win in a big blue state like New York doesn't mean Obama wouldn't be able to win the state in November. (The same goes for some of Obama's victories in red states that the Democrats have little or no chance of capturing during a general election.) I can't imagine there are that many people, at least in the press, who are buying Clinton's argument about her big-state wins. And Healy's article doesn't add a whole lot to the analysis. (I'm not trying to put him down, it's a fine article; sometimes reporters and editors assume the public knows what we know, and I'm one of those people who think we need to get over that and write articles like Healy's, and there's not a whole lot he could add to the analysis at this point.) But even though we've all known that Clinton's argument about big states doesn't necessarily hold up, an article in the paper of record is still likely to change the dynamic for the campaign going forward. Just another one of the vagaries of campaign coverage, which can, at times, get totally maddening.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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