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General Election Math May Be in Clinton’s Favor

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In an interesting analysis at RealClearPolitics, Marie Cocco points out that while Hillary Clinton may have a math problem heading towards the nomination, Barack Obama may have a general election math problem. It all comes down to who is winning where and how those wins are happening.

Add up all the states [Obama] has won in his historic drive to become the nominee, including all of those small and deeply “red” Republican states where the Obama supporters boast of their candidate’s transcendental appeal, and so far Obama has won in places representing 193 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Add up Clinton’s victories thus far and she has triumphed in states representing 263 electoral votes.

Of course, some states in Clinton’s column — Texas comes most readily to mind — that have a large trove of Electoral College votes are highly unlikely to wind up Democratic in the fall. But the same holds true for Obama, whose strength in southern Democratic primaries has rested on the huge margins he has run up among African-American voters. African-Americans are a crucial constituency for Democrats, but their votes in recent contests haven’t been enough to win such states as Alabama, South Carolina or Georgia.

The piece goes on to point out Obama’s weakness in Ohio where he only won five of the state’s 88 counties. While Obama may play well among self-described independents, he’s not playing well among the type of swing voter who will likely determine the general election: blue collar and rural voters. The fact that Obama can win big urban areas is almost irrelevant. Any Democrat will win those. To win the key swing states, the nominee will need to make inroads into the ole’ Reagan Democrats who haven’t been reliably Democrat since 1979.

Look at the fancy county-by-county maps CNN provides and you’ll see a trend in every primary state: Clinton wins outside the cities. This is important. Obama may have won more red states but Clinton is winning the red counties in the swing states. Those red states aren’t going to go blue. But a few red counties in Ohio or Florida or Colorado might go bluer and tip the election to the Democrats. The candidate that looks best positioned to do that is not Obama but Clinton.

Until reading this piece and then doing my own research and analysis, I just assumed Obama’s strength among independents would make him the more formidable opponent against John McCain. Now, I’m not so sure. Interesting.