Obama could lose in November too

By Dan Streib

Not surprisingly, many pundits have jumped to the conclusion that this election is pretty much in the bag for the Democrats unless they “mistakenly” nominate Hillary Clinton. If that happens, the “Hillary effect” could take place, and her high negatives in polls could take a toll. Renowned columnist George Will even went so far as to reference a Hillary nomination as a “gift” to the Republicans.

Given statements like these, some Democrats wrongly seem to think that since Barack Obama is appealing to independents and does not receive “Hillary” hate, he would be the ideal candidate to secure a Democratic presidency. And since so many liberals want anything but another Republican in office, electability is a great concern for them – and to them, Obama seems perfect.

In reality, there are numerous other factors that make the situation much more complicated, and these factors transcend Clinton’s high popularity in some sections of the electorate. But even if Hillary’s nomination is the gift the GOP has been waiting for, an Obama nomination might just be a delightful surprise for the elephants. This is because, given his current campaigning, Obama will be an even less electable candidate than Hillary in a general election.

This is due to the fact that Obama’s campaigning so far has revealed one severe weakness: inspirational words with no stated substance. Now before Obamainiacs start throwing their stones at me, I understand that his aides may have numerous policy papers in his files. But there is a difference in having obscure policy measures in obscure cabinets at the Obamovement HQ and having him actually discuss and debate these measures.

Yes, Obama wants “change” and offers “hope.” But when he is alone on the debate podium with no prepared speech to guide him, he doesn’t elabrotate on what change he wants or what hope he brings. If Obama continues to show a lack of understanding of his issues by not doing this, he will also seem inexperienced. And this is his flaw in a general election.

Granted, Obama would beat many Republicans in this year’s Democratic-leaning electorate. But what people don’t think about is the fact that given current polling, those he will beat will go down in defeat by equal margins at the hands of the junior senator from New York. Yet the reason polling can be so inaccurate is that voters may not have considered all of the factors about a candidate when they respond to a cold call. And most voters have already considered Hillary to death. Many haven’t considered Obama’s drawbacks yet.

Yet the thing that shows up in primaries is that Obama still sweeps audiences off their feet. What does Obama’s lack of elaboration matter if voters get all misty-eyed when he speaks? Why does he need to explain his hope when people love him anyway?

The answer is simple: young primary voters, new primary voters, and media types that suffer from memory loss are who he appeals to right now. What about the elderly who didn’t vote in a primary due to the weather? What about the middle-aged who were too busy with their jobs and kids to vote in the primary? These people have heard the words “change” and “hope” more than us young college kids can possibly imagine. If Obama continues to base his candidacy over these stilted phrases, he will be much more hindering to the Democrats’ chances against an electable Republican than Hillary’s negatives ever could.

Simply put, a large reason for the Democrats’ success in polls and congressional elections is the fear of GOP incompetency by the electorate. Thus, to keep that “competency” appeal the Democrats would be smart to stick with the candidate that seems more competent, responsible, and experienced. To general election voters, Obama has yet to establish these traits.

Does this mean Obama would lose a general election and Hillary would win? No and no. But what this does mean is that Hillary maximizes the Democrats’ current electoral advantages, and therefore is more electable than the senator from our very own land of Lincoln.

Dan is a sophomore in history and political science and forgot to write his bottom line, much to his editor’s annoyance.