Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
As I was pondering the presidential race this weekend, I realized that Hillary Clinton has struggled in the same states that bedeviled her husband more than a decade ago.
There are sixteen states that Bill Clinton never won in a general election -- not in 1992 or 1996. Of those sixteen, thirteen have voted in the Democratic race for president this year.
Of those thirteen, Barack Obama has won eleven (Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia and South Carolina), Hillary Clinton has won one (Oklahoma) and one was a split decision (Texas, with its prima-caucus madness).
You can make a good case that this correlation is spurious. Many of those states held caucuses and Obama has done well in caucus states (even ones that Bill carried). Four of them are Southern states with large African-American populations, which made them predisposed toward Obama.
If there is something going on here, however, I have a theory as to what it would be.
Democrats in these states are unusually sensitive to the effect of the presidential campaign on downballot races. The Democratic presidential nominee doesn't have more than a remote chance of winning fifteen of these sixteen states (Virginia being the exception), but the effect of the presidential race on voter turnout will impact the fortunes of candidates up and down the ballot.
While Obama has suffered some chinks in his electability armor lately, throughout most of the campaign Clinton has been viewed as the candidate who could hurt downballot Democrats. That's especially true in states where there are a lot of Republicans who loathe the Clintons and who would be more likely to show up at the polls if they have a chance to vote against Hillary.
That effect also might be magnified in caucus states, where party activists -- people who are inclined to think about downballot races -- hold sway. Maybe that's why Obama racked up such large margins in the Western caucus states, in addition to his campaign's organizational acumen.
So what are the remaining three "anti-Clinton" states to vote? South Dakota on June 3 and Indiana and North Carolina, today.
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