Candidates Make Electability the Issue
12-05-2007
An article in the December 10th edition of Newsweek neatly underscores yesterday’s post on electability. Richard Wolffe argues that, although candidates spend a great deal of time talking about issues on the campaign trail, they also understand the bottom-line importance of convincing voters that they can win in November. It is this question of electability that ultimately determines how candidates like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama engage each other on the stump. Wolffe writes:
 
But what's a candidate to do if the issues aren't really an issue? That's just the problem Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, locked in verbal combat these last few weeks, are now confronting in the time remaining before the Iowa caucuses…if the campaign for the Democratic nomination were really a contest of who had the best ideas for the country, voters would have a tough time choosing between the two front runners...Instead, Clinton and Obama have tried to differentiate themselves by making the race about something else: which one of them can win. For Democrats still frustrated by presidential losses in 2000 and 2004, that's no small thing.
 
So, the campaigns attempt to frame the vote choice as one about which candidate has the best chance of beating the other party’s nominee in November. While Clinton claims that she has the toughness (experience) to withstand the inevitable onslaught of Republican attacks in the general election, Obama argues that he can transcend (change) polarized partisan politics in ways that will disarm his opponents. In this debate about electability, we find the seeds of the Democratic race’s predominant political narrative, not about issues, but about the relative merit of presidential candidates bringing change or experience to the governance of our political system. It is not just voters who want to win.


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