I’ve been pondering what, exactly, makes the primary season so unbearable and the crux of the matter is that it’s the epistemology, damnit. If I had to vote today, I would definitely vote for Obama, because when I think about the factors that I feel certain about they definitely tilt in his favor. On the other hand, when I think about the race as a whole the set of knowable factors is a pretty tiny subset of the set of relevant factors. I know a lot of people who have, for example, really strong feelings about the likely general election performance of these candidates. And if you forced me to make a guess, I think I could make an educated guess. But the reality is that it would just be a guess — I don’t think I or anyone else has any real way of knowing.
Around Democratic Washington — and among political junkies all around the country — people have tons of barroom wisdom about the electability, judgment, experience, managerial competence, etc. of the various candidates but frankly I think the evidence available on all of these scores is indecisive and that the issue is pretty inherently unknowable. Unfortunately, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama has experience running against a conservative Republican in a “red” or “purple” jurisdiction and neither of them have held executive office. We can make educated guesses about their skillz in these regards, but we’re just guessing. The evidence from the campaign trail suggests to me that Obama would have a better foreign policy, but the evidence of history suggests to me that campaign-based evidence is a terrible predictor of how foreign policy will actually be conducted. Which candidate is most likely to be able to get his or her agenda through congress? I have no idea and I don’t think there’s any way to figure it out. It’s just a very frustrating thing to spend one’s time thinking about.