Picture this: It's January 20, 2009 and John McCain is being sworn in as president, promising in his inaugural address to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and keep American troops in Iraq for 100 years. If you're a Democratic voter on Super Tuesday, you must vote for the candidate who makes this scenario least likely. That candidate is clearly Barack Obama.
Sunday's Washington Post/ABC poll shows Obama defeating McCain 49%-46% while McCain beats Clinton 49%-46%. Sunday's Cook Political Report/RT Strategies poll shows Obama defeating McCain 45%-43% and McCain defeating Clinton 45%-41%. Both polls give Obama a 6 point advantage over Clinton in a match-up with McCain.
These most recent polls are consistent with numerous polls taken over the past year, most, but not all, of which show McCain defeating Clinton. A January 10-12 Financial Dynamics poll shows McCain defeating Clinton 48%-45% and Obama defeating McCain 43%-42%. A December 12-14 Zogby Poll shows McCain defeating Clinton 49%-42% and Obama defeating McCain 47%-43%, a 10 point advantage for Obama over Clinton.
If you're not a big believer in polls, let's look at some more practical factors. John McCain is unpopular and distrusted by a substantial portion of the conservative Republican base. Rightly or wrongly, that base hates Hillary Clinton with a passion. The only thing that can unite the Republican party around John McCain and guarantee a massive Republican turnout is the desire to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House. Barack Obama does not generate the same kind of negative passions among Republicans -- many of them who do not much like McCain would likely stay home in November if Obama is the Democratic candidate, and some would even vote for Obama.
Moreover, neither the Democrats nor Republicans have a majority of registered voters. To win the presidency, a candidate must garner a large number of independents. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have shown a far better ability to attract independents than has Hillary Clinton. In a Clinton/McCain match-up, McCain is likely to pick-up the majority of independents. Obama has the ability to attract large numbers of independents, and even some disaffected Republicans.
Frank Luntz, one of the top Republican strategists and the author of the Contract With America, said on Bill Maher Friday night that he does not know how to come up with a Republican strategy to defeat Barack Obama.
Finally, a completely anecdotal piece of evidence: My brother-in-law, a lifetime Massachusetts Democrat, told me on the phone Sunday that if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, he will vote for John McCain. I promised him that if Hillary is nominated, we'll be having another discussion on the subject before November and I hoped, in that event, I would be able to change his mind. Still, I don't think my brother-in-law is unique in his thinking.
So, as you ponder your vote on Super Tuesday, even if you truly believe that Hillary Clinton would make a somewhat better president than Barack Obama, it's still vital that you vote for Obama to guarantee that the next president will not be John McCain.