Friday, March 07, 2008

Up the down ticket

There was much ado ‘round the ‘sphere yesterday about a pair of electoral maps published by SUSA, each of which show the potential Democratic nominee beating the prospective Republican one—though Senators Obama and Clinton would likely take different paths to electoral college victory over John W. McCain.

That both Democrats are now projected to win is great news, but the difference in the way that they win—the states that each would take to gain the requisite number of votes in the Electoral College—is not inconsequential. As one of Ezra Klein’s commenters points out:

The Democratic Party is more than the Presidential nominee. . . . The difference between Clinton's path and Obama's path is there are 10 Senate seates [sic] in the Obama states I gave versus 4 Senate seats in the Clinton states. Obama's path is a much better path for the party and to win Congressional seats you actually need to govern.

In other words, Clinton might currently appear to fare better in a few large “swing” states, but the number of smaller states that Obama seems able to win have more potential pickups in Senate contests, while still giving him an Electoral College victory. That doesn’t mean that Democratic candidates for Senate can’t win in states that might favor the AZ Asshole for president, but it is undeniably a much bigger lift without the Dem nominee’s coattails.

While I have argued in the past that a candidate’s “electability” shouldn’t be the primary motivation for choosing a presidential standard-bearer—it sets up a ridiculous equation where you try to game your vote by guessing how others would vote if they were thinking about the field the way you were—I have also argued in favor of looking at what a nominee for president would do for other races on the ballot. I have given this criterion extra emphasis because the mess we are in after two terms of Bush-Cheney is too big for just one man or woman to clean up. A Democratic president will need solid Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress if anything is to be accomplished—from passing universal health coverage to confirming judges that will favor the Constitution over rightwing Republican ideology.

Right now (and the maps are only a snapshot of right now), it appears a ballot headed by Barack Obama will have a positive affect on more important down ticket races than a ballot topped with Hillary Clinton. Or, as EK puts it:

[T]here's little doubt, at this point, that [Obama] provides a bigger boost to downticket Democrats running in moderate and even conservative states. And that matters. You want a real theory of change? Have the votes to pass your legislation.

(cross-posted on guy2k, Daily Kos, Open Left, and The Seminal)

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