Thursday, June 19, 2008

Webb, Sebelius, and Strickland: Who Offers the Most to a Democratic Ticket?

Three of the more prominent names mentioned as potential running mates for Obama are Jim Webb (D-VA), Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS), and Ted Strickland (D-OH). On Monday, I posted about which groups Webb would help Obama with. Today, I thought I'd expand the analysis by comparing Webb's performance among particular key groups with the performances of Sebelius and Strickland in 2006. To do this, I examine the 2006 exit poll data from each race.

First, I should caution that one major challenge in comparing these candidates is that each faced a different opponent in a different state, meaning there are a lot of factors at play here. These differences are evident from the fact that each candidate was supported by a different percentage of exit poll respondents--54% for Webb, 61% for Sebelius (who was running for re-election), and 64% for Strickland. Despite these limitations, it is still interesting to examine which groups each candidate performed better or worse with in their own states in 2006. The figure below summarizes these patterns:

One key group to look at is white women, a key swing group. Webb actually performed worse among white women than he did overall in winning his senate seat in 2006. Strickland won about the same percentage of white women (65%) as he did overall in his gubernatorial bid, a level of support similar to what Sebelius captured in her bid for re-election in 2006. Based on these patterns, Strickland and Sebelius appear to be more likely to help Obama with women than Webb.

Working class whites are another key group that Obama may wish to reach out to with his vice presidential selection. If that is the goal, then Strickland seems to be the clear favorite among this group. Neither Webb nor Sebelius performed very well with low-income or non-college-educated whites, particularly compared to their overall support (both did worse than their baseline support with these groups). On the other hand, Strickland won a great deal of support from these groups, near or above his total support. Strickland also performed very well among rural voters, though Webb also excelled with this group. Sebelius's support, on the other hand, came more from urban areas (where Obama tends to run strong anyway).

Thus, each of these three candidates offers different pluses and minuses for Obama. If Obama is concerned with making a pick that would win support from white women, then Sebelius or Strickland seem like a safer bet. If Obama wants to make inroads with working class whites, Strickland runs very strong with that group, even relative to his overall support in 2006. Strickland and Webb also both run well in rural areas, though Webb does exceptionally well in rural areas relative to his overall support.

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