The Plank

Can Biden Out-hillary Hillary?

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The principal rationale for selecting Hillary Clinton as Barack Obama's
running mate is that she would have united Democrats behind their
nominee at a time when they have a substantial advantage in party
identification. John Kerry received 89 percent of the Democratic vote
in 2004; if Barack Obama can get within a couple of points of that,
even to 86 or 87 percent, he will be very difficult to defeat.However,
Joe Biden might do nearly as good a job as Clinton of uniting the
party, while perhaps paying less of a price among independents.Rasmussen
has fresh approval numbers out for Biden, as well as several other
Democratic short-listers. Here, borrowed from Rasmussen's invaluable
subscriber service, are their approval scores by party:DemocratsCandidate Fav-UnfavClinton 77-22 (+55)Biden 65-17 (+48)Bayh 45-25 (+20)Sebelius 35-19 (+16)Kaine 35-29 (+6)Clinton
has the highest favorables and highest net score among Democrats; Biden
has the fewest unfavorables. Generally speaking, Clinton and Biden blow
the other three candidates out of the water.RepublicansCandidate Fav-UnfavKaine 29-30 (-1)Bayh 23-43 (-20)Sebelius 14-45 (-31)Biden 22-63 (-39)Clinton 21-75 (-54)Amongst
Republicans, the ratings are very nearly the reverse. Joe Biden will
not have a terrific amount of crossover appeal. On the contrary, though
the animus might not be as personal as in the case of Senator Clinton,
Biden will be seen my many GOPers as a partisan blowhard. One can
argue, however, about whether this really matters. The notion that
Obama was going to win over some large number of "Obamacans" had not
realistically been in play for a couple of months now, as the GOP base
has begun to rally behind John McCain.IndepedentsCandidate Fav-UnfavBiden 42-29 (+13)Bayh 31-21 (+10)Kaine 24-23 (+1)Sebelius 18-21 (-3)Clinton 39-57 (-18)Where
Biden might do some good is among independents, among whom he has the
highest favorables and highest net rating, although a couple other
candidates had lower unfavorables. But Biden certainly performs better
amongst this critical group than Hillary Clinton. One can argue that
Biden is very well positioned within the Democratic party, probably
just slightly to the right of the average Democratic senator. Liberal
Democrats certainly won't be pleased with his votes on the AUMF or the
bankruptcy bill, but they still essentially trust him, which they
wouldn't necessarily with a more identifiably centrist choice like Evan
Bayh or Tim Kaine. But on the other hand, Biden cannot so easily be
characterized as a liberal to turn off independent voters; in fact,
independents and moderates like him pretty well.Let's take one
more, slightly different take on this. This time, we'll look at
impressions of the candidates based not on party ID, but rather, based
on who the voters had intended to vote for in November. Let's make the
following assumptions:- For each McCain voter that has a very favorable view of Biden, one-quarter of them will switch their vote to Obama.- For each McCain voter that has a somewhat favorable view of Biden, one-eighth of them will switch their vote to Obama.- For each Obama voter that has a somewhat unfavorable view of Biden, one-eighth of them will switch their vote to McCain.- For each Obama voter that has a very unfavorable view of Biden, one-quarter of them will switch their vote to McCain.Does
that sound reasonable? It sounds reasonable to me, though I really have
no idea. But let's run the numbers and see what we get:VF = Very FavorableSF = Somewhat FavorableVU = Very UnfavorableSU = Somewhat Unfavorable... McCain Voters Obama VotersCandidate VF SF VU SU Net MarginBiden 4 20 5 10 +2.00Bayh 4 19 4 16 +0.75Kaine 8 21 8 20 +0.25Clinton 11 14 13 14 -0.50Sebelius 3 13 5 13 -0.50

What's
noteworthy is not so much that Biden will turn a lot of McCain voters
on -- Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton would have done a better job of
that -- but that he'll turn very few Obama voters off. As a result,
this method projects a net swing of 2 points toward Obama, which is
better than he'd do with any of the other candidates. Biden also
performed quite well in these ratings among undecided (43-22 favorable)
and third-party (45-36 favorable) voters, though the sample sizes are
probably too small to be worth worrying about.

--Nate SilverĀ 

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