Electability and The Republican Smear Machine

Ezra Klein has an interesting theory about Hillary Clinton and the Republican Attack Machine

A week or two ago, I suggested that the sexism and viciousness of the attacks the GOP will launch against Clinton may result in a helluva boomerang effect, rendering Clinton the most likely to turn the Republican Attack Machine into a liability in the eyes of the voters — women voters in particular. This is what I was talking about.

This is a good point that many people are overlooking. I’m not saying that everyone is going to become pro Clinton all of a sudden, but sexist statements like this could definetely backfire particularly among key voting demographics like independent or moderate conservative women.

But more importantly, I think this highlights another point Ezra makes.

Of course, I’ll double down on the confusion and say these horserace polls, too, are meaningless. A campaign against McCain, or any other candidate, will be decided by a variety of factors, ranging from the state of the economy to the condition of Iraq to the specific argument that breaks out between the candidates. Obama may be better at highlighting Obama’s age, but McCain could be better at exposing his inexperience. Clinton may be more skilled at neutralizing his experience, but McCain may exploit her polarizing reputation. McCain could make a major gaffe on the economy, or Bill Clinton could get embroiled in scandal, or there could be a terrorist attack, or…

The point isn’t that electability shouldn’t enter the discussion: Just that it’s 16-dimensional chess. You can’t simply glance at some favorability numbers, or note Obama’s apparent appeal to independents (but not his problems with downscale whites), and assume you’ve discovered an answer worthy of any significant degree of confidence. The best you can do, at the end of the day, is decide which candidate you like better and mix that with a judgment on which proves to be the toughest, most skilled, most appropriate-to-the-moment campaigner.


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