This news came to me early today, but I haven’t had a chance to write anything until: Mark Penn apparently said that had John Edwards dropped out of the Democratic primary earlier than he did (for, say, fear that his affair would have been made public, etc.), Hillary Clinton may have won the nomination over Obama. His logic, if we can call it that, being that Edwards voters would have gone for Clinton at that point. I believe he used the words ” would have taken a good look at her again” or something like that.
Before I had a chance to read Mark Blumenthal’s rebuttal to Penn’s point, I knew how silly it was, even anecdotally. Anyone I knew that supported Edwards in early 2008 either would have voted for Obama had Edwards not been in the race, or went on to vote for Obama when Edwards did drop out (if their state’s primary was later). It is so blatantly obvious that Hillary Clinton had a finite base in the Democratic Party — you were either die hard for her or you weren’t. There was very little that could have been done to change that, and it’s remarkable that Mark Penn, with his years of experience in Washington, is too dense to recognize that.
Indeed, as Blumenthal’s analysis shows, voters who would have gone for Edwards broke overwhelmingly for Obama after he dropped out of the race. Blumenthal rightly points out that this surge for Obama may not have been entirely due to Edwards’ decision to drop out, but also points out that Clinton’s support neither increased nor decreased at this same point in time. Her base remained relatively stagnant, similar to poll data Blumenthal cites from as early as Iowa.
I understand that to be a political consultant you don’t have to be a genius. And I also understand that it takes a certain amount of luck — and that after awhile you might lose your touch. But it’s shocking that Mark Penn could be so crushingly, embarrassingly off of the mark — consistently — and still be taken seriously.
Then again, people seem to think John McCain and Dick Cheney are fonts of wisdom these days, so what do I know?