For the past few months, Hillary Clinton has emphasized that wins in big Democratic states like California, New York, and Pennsylvania make her more likely to beat John McCain in February. That, to say the least, has no factual grounds whatsoever. ( Jeff Greenfield detailed why back in March . ) The essential point: Just because women, the working class, and Catholics aren't voting for Obama now doesn't mean they won't vote for him come November. The same applies for Obama's base of African-Americans, educated voters, and young people: Just because they vote overwhelmingly against Hillary Clinton now doesn't mean they'll vote for John McCain in November. Sure, Clinton might be better suited for November because she won California, but there's simply no way to know.
A few friends and I were batting this idea around our inboxes this week, trying to come up with the best metaphor to explain why winning the primary doesn't guarantee success in the general. It was surprisingly hard. The best we could come up with:
Being a top flight relief pitcher doesn't make you the favorite to win the Cy Young Award.
Beating out all the other Idol wannabes down at the local karaoke one Saturday night doesn't mean Simon won't tear you a new one once you get to Hollywood.
Doing well in a qualifying heat for a NASCAR event doesn't mean you're going to win the race. You've got a different track, different weather, and different variables on the day of the real thing.
Needless to say, you can do better. E-mail TrailheadContest@gmail.com and submit your best metaphors debunking Clinton's logic. We'll publish the best ones later on.
UPDATE 5:32 p.m.: We're already getting some great entries, and I want to make one thing a bit clearer. We're not exactly looking for what the difference is between the primary and the general election, but rather a metaphor for why winning among Democrats in the primary doesn't mean you'll do better among all voters in the general election. A helpful hint that some readers have passed along, nicely summarized by Jack Davis:
Reverse the metaphor—it's not about the candidates, it's about the selection process of a voter/shopper/consumer—and what choice they will make given the alternative.
Feel free to keep sending the primary/general-election metaphors in, but try and tease out that other metaphorical conundrum if you're feeling up for a challenge. Also, all e-mail can be quoted unless requested otherwise.