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John Edwards is the Most Electable Democrat


In the wake of the latest New Hampshire Democratic primary poll by the Boston Globe in which 53% of voters said they felt Hillary Clinton was the most electable, we decided to look at past polling data to either confirm or repudiate those claims. Hillary Clinton's high "electability" in the New Hampshire poll is nothing more than an acknowledgement by voters that she is leading in the polls thus looks like she can win. When a candidate is winning their primary, he/she will look electable to voters -- an obvious correlation isn't it?

But what's not obvious is how those candidates would fare in a hypothetical general election matchup when pitted against Republican rivals.

One word of caution we feel is important to make is that any single general election matchup poll should be deemed highly innacurate because the general election is almost a full year away. Not only are polls the least accurate as you poll further away from an election but voters are making their decisions from either not paying attention to the election or to seeing how the candidates are doing in their respective nomination bids. Yet we still feel that analyzing the trends of several polls lumped together can be done.

Clinton, due to her high poll numbers in her bid for the Democratic nomination will get positive vibes from voters and would likely be strong in general election matchups. But can she count on those votes come Election 2008?

Our findings were quite astonishing as they proved the Democratic candidate that MOST likely can beat a Republican candidate in 2008 was John Edwards.

Taken from our Hilary Clinton v. Rudy Giuliani page in which we have archived approximately 250 matchup polls, we have tabulated the following monthly averages for each of the candidates.

Hillary Clinton currently has a steady lead of over 5.0%, which is greater than the Margin of Error for the majority of those polls.

Here is the how John Edwards has done in a hypothetical matchup against Rudy Giuliani over the same time period.

Of these 11 months, John Edwards has had a larger lead over Giuliani in 7 of them which can simply be done by subtracting the Hillary Clinton's margin in the polls from Edwards' margin. Doing so, you get the following table.

John Edwards happens to be behind in October and November and the majority of voters will focus in on that and claim that Clinton is more electable because of those recent polls. You can believe it if you want but we will take the privilege in disagreeing with you. As we stated earlier, Clinton's aura of invincibility and greatness is completely based on the fact that because she is winning the Democratic primary and looks like a winner -- not on her merits. Before Clinton was perceived as "invincible", Edwards was 6.0% better against Rudy Giuliani than her in August and 7.3% better than her in April.

October has been a turning poing for Hillary Clinton as it was then that her primary poll numbers soared through the roof. Despite only polling around 40% in the primaries, she busted 51% in October's CNN poll.

One criticism of this analysis could be that we are comparing monthly averages but including the results of different pollsters for all of them. The inclusion of one pollster in a monthly average but not in the other could cause a skewing of the results that we did not intend or predict. So let's keep the pollster constant and have it be Rasmussen Reports. We choose Rasmussen because they have the most data points of all the pollsters and by using them, we would lend ourselves the most credibility from a mathematical and statistical perspective. Whether we believe Rasmussen Reports is the more accurate pollster does not matter so much because whatever their methodology is, they are applying it equally to Clinton v. Giuliani and Edwards v. Giuliani so therefore any results from such data can be compared without objection.

Here is how Clinton fared against Giuliani since April in the Rasmussen Reports.

and Edwards.

We chose to only show the data since April because every month before had only one poll or fewer per month per matchup.

Nevertheless, if you look at Edwards he has always been ahead or tied except for the latest October poll that showed him behind 45% to 44%. Of course this falls within the margin of error but Clinton too was behind during the same time frame (46% to 44%).

Edwards has been better than Clinton by comfortable margins of 6%, 7% (twice) and 10% when they are pitted up against Giuliani. Of course if you focus on October's results, you would say Clinton was the best candidate but we prefer to stick with a candidate that is showing consistency because the polls can vary greatly in a general election -- especially one that is a year away. With Hillary Clinton as polarizing as she is, you would rather stick with the candidate that shows the most consistency of results as well as is the least objectionable. And if you are a Democrat that wants an end to the war, Clinton should have offended you with her vote on Iran?

For an idea as to her objectionability, check out this poll by Zogby that shows 50% of voters would never under no circumstances vote for Hillary Clinton, most of all Democratic presidential candidates including Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich.

Contributions to this article have been made by David Terr, PhD in Mathematics from UC Berkeley; Proloy Bhattacharyya, MS in Electrical Engineering from UCLA; and Joseph Hunter; High School Intern from Detroit, MI.

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(c) President Election, 2008