There seem to be various complaints about James Carville and Mark Penn’s case for Hillary Clinton’s electability that appeared in the Post yesterday, including that Penn was not identified as a current consultant to Clinton’s Senate reelection campaign. But I had a different reaction.
Here’s one of Carville and Penn’s key arguments, and to me the most powerful one:
Pundits and fundraisers and activists may be unsure of whether Hillary can get elected president, but Democratic voters, particularly Democratic women and even independent women, are thrilled with the idea.
The X factor for 2008 -- and we do mean X -- is the power of women in the electorate.... We believe that Hillary is uniquely capable of getting those swing voters back to the Democratic column...we could see an explosion of women voting -- and voting Democratic.
The big question about Senator Clinton’s candidacy is this: Does she have a particular appeal to women, including independent and Republican-leaning women, and married women?
I think she might, which is one reason I’m open to the idea that Clinton is as electable as anyone else, and possibly more so. I could have written the sentences above, but purely as speculation. It’s a huge question, and if I were a pollster, if I had the capacity to do more than speculate, I would sure like to find out.
Which gets to the problem with the op-ed: Mark Penn is a pollster. He actually has the capacity to find out. Presumably he is out there trying to find out, unless he’s too busy inventing new and dubious demographic categories, like "office park dads." Not one single piece of data is attached to statements like, "independent women are thrilled with the idea," or "we believe that Hillary is uniquely capable of getting those swing voters," or "we could see an explosion of women voting."
At the launch of the new online publication, The Democratic Strategist, last week, Ruy Teixera promised a new era in which Democratic thinking would be guided by "facts not faction." I’m totally open to the argument that Senator Clinton is electable -- but please show us some facts.