Talking Points Memo’s Dylan Scott interviewed Mitch Stewart, the former battleground states director of President Obama’s reelection campaign and now a member of the Hillary Clinton campaign-in-waiting known as “Ready for Hillary,” about how the 2016 electoral map could be expanded in Democrats’ favor if the former secretary of state is, as expected, the party’s presidential nominee.
Stewart suggests two “buckets” of states that Clinton could make competitive in 2016 that Obama, for a several reasons, couldn’t in 2008 or 2012. The first bucket is Arkansas, Indiana and Missouri. The second contains Arizona and Georgia.
The first bucket of states is ridiculous. The second is plausible — but almost certainly not in 2016. Let’s take them in order.
Stewart’s explanation for Clinton’s heightened competitiveness in Arkansas, Missouri and Indiana is that she can appeal to whites and, in particular, white working-class voters and, even more particularly, white working-class women voters in a way that Obama could not. (It’s worth noting that the Clinton people have made a similar argument about the potential competitiveness of Kentucky.)
“Where I think Secretary Clinton has more appeal than any other Democrat looking at running is that with white working-class voters, she does have a connection,” Stewart told Scott. “I think she’s best positioned to open those states.” As evidence, Stewart cited Clinton’s success in the 2008 primary process in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Fair(ish). But remember that Clinton’s performance in those primaries was against an African American candidate named Barack Obama, not against a Republican in a general election. And that coming close isn’t the same thing as winning. Yes, Clinton would almost certainly do better with white working-class voters than Obama did. But, in some of the states that Stewart puts in that first bucket, that’s a pretty low bar.
Arkansas is a good example. It’s easy to assume — and the Clintons almost certainly are assuming — that the former first couple of Arkansas have a special connection to the Natural State. After all, Bill Clinton spent years as the state’s governor and used it as a launching pad for his presidential bid in 1992.
That was a very long time ago. And even in the past six years, Arkansas has moved heavily away from Democrats at the federal level. In 2008, both U.S. senators from Arkansas were Democrats, as were three of its four House members. Following the 2014 elections, all six are Republicans. ALL SIX. President Obama won just 37 percent of the vote in the state in the 2012 general election after watching someone named John Wolfe win 42 percent of the vote in the Democratic presidential primary against him.
Would Hillary Clinton do better than that? Yes. But the idea that the Arkansas that helped push Bill Clinton into the national spotlight has anything in common, politically speaking, with the Arkansas of 2014 is a fallacy. As for the idea that Obama’s race was the fundamental reason for his poor showing among white working-class voters, here are two words for you: Mark Pryor. As in, the two term incumbent senator — and son of a former governor and senator in the state — who just lost badly in his bid for reelection. Pryor took just 31 percent among white voters and won an even more meager 29 percent among whites without a college education. (The exit poll didn’t break down income level by race.)
Billary could get more “working class white voters” than the messiah did? I thought that the messiah got 71% of the total white vote.
Hillary won’t get the white working class Dem vote over a different guy who is not Obama.
There’s her real weakness.
She still thinks O is her opponent.
I doubt her opponent will alienate white male voters as much (not that much) as Obama did.