Steve and Cokie Roberts make an argument for Hillary Clinton:

Democrats seem intent on nominating Barack Obama, in the face of mounting evidence that Hillary Clinton would be the stronger candidate against John McCain in November. And they only have themselves to blame.

What ‘mounting evidence’, you ask? Let’s look at Obama vs. Clinton by region.

They are both polling ahead of McCain in every state in New England except New Hampshire. Obama is running stronger in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont, while Clinton is running stronger in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In New Hampshire they are effectively tied. There’s no evidence that Clinton is stronger in New England. How about the Mid-Atlantic (Acela) states?

Obama is polling stronger in New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. Clinton is stronger in her home state of New York. Obama is stronger in the Mid-Atlantic. So, how about the South Coast? Obama is stronger in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Clinton is stronger in Florida. Georgia is effectively tied. Obama puts Virginia and North Carolina in play, while Clinton does not. Clinton is running much stronger in Florida. It’s a wash.

So, how does Clinton do in the Rust Belt? She polls better in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but loses Michigan to McCain. Obama polls better in Indiana and beats McCain in Michigan. Again, it’s a wash, although Clinton’s advantage in Ohio is important, her weakness in Michigan is a major concern. So, what about the Northcentral region?

Obama polls better in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. In fact, Clinton loses (badly) to McCain in Iowa and Wisconsin. Obama is clearly stronger in his home region. How about in the Prairie region?

Obama polls stronger in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. It’s not even a contest. He also polls better in the Big Sky and Pacific states, including California.

So, where is Hillary stronger? Not in the Southwest, where Obama polls stronger in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Hillary’s strength comes in one area: the Highlands, or Greater Appalachia. She runs stronger in Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia. That’s it. That’s your mounting evidence. Looking at current polling, here are the states that Clinton is winning and Obama is losing: Arkansas (6), West Virginia (5), Florida (27), and Ohio (20) totaling 58 electoral college votes. Here are the states that Obama is winning and Clinton is losing: Michigan (17), Wisconsin (10), Iowa (7), Colorado (9), and Nevada (5), totaling 48 electoral votes.

These results project to an Electoral college win for Obama of 274-264, and for Clinton 284-254. However, Obama makes many more states competitive and is currently winning all Kerry states except New Hampshire. The Roberts counter:

Obama can make some strong counterarguments. While Clinton might be the better candidate in traditional swing battlegrounds, he can “expand the map” by bringing in new voters, mainly young people and blacks, and making the Democrats competitive in red states like Colorado and Virginia.

The election map, however, has been starkly static during the Bush years, with only three small states switching sides between 2000 and 2004. Winning Ohio with Clinton is a safer bet for Democrats than capturing Colorado and Virginia with Obama.

Every political scientist in the country is predicting a realigning election, which means the map does not remain static. In the latest Rasmussen poll, Obama is beating McCain by 3 points in Colorado, while Clinton is losing by 14 points. In Virginia, Obama is down by 3 points, while Clinton is down by six. In South Dakota, Obama is down by 4 points, while Clinton is down by twelve. In North Dakota, Obama is down by 6, and Clinton is down by twenty. In Montana, Obama is down by 5, and Clinton is down by eighteen.

Moreover, the latest polls out of Florida and Ohio have Obama down by a single point.

So why don’t Democratic leaders and superdelegates face these facts and shift to Clinton? One reason is race. It’s true, as Obama says, that being black in America has hardly been a political asset, given the fact that he’s the only African-American in the U.S. Senate.

But at this time, in this party, being black is an enormous asset. Given America’s long, torturous path toward racial justice, many Democrats simply cannot imagine denying the nomination to the first serious African-American candidate for president.

From a moral perspective, that’s a noble judgment. From a political perspective, it could cost Democrats the White House.

I think nominating the loser of the popular vote, the most contests, and the pledged delegate count would carry much higher risks than simply nominating the winner of those metrics.

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