Condi 2008--winning nationally
Condi has both the greatest risk of losing...and the greatest chance of burying Hillary in a landslide.
Bush carried the country 51/48. Here's the breakdown by race:
Percentage of voters....and the resultant net advantage
Whites (77%)=58/41. Net advantage=13.1% GOP
Blacks (11%)=11/88. Net advantage=8.5% Dem
Latinos (8%)=44/53. Net advantage=0.7% Dem
Asians (2%)=46/56. Net advantage=0.2% Dem
Other (2%)=40/54. Net advantage=0.3% Dem
(Rounding and other problems=lack of exact agreement).
In other words, Bush won because he carried the white vote heavily. He lost every other racial subgroup. If it weren't for the fact that the white vote went heavily for Bush, JFK would be president.
To put it differently: Bush got a 13% net overall advantage from white voters; he lost 10% among non-whites; for an overall margin of victory in the USA of about 3%. Of the 10% that he lost among non-white voters, 85% of that margin came from African-American voters. Nationally, the Democratic party is absolutely dependent on heavy black support; without it, they cannot compete.
Hence the risk and the reward of running Condi: if she can make even modest inroads into the black vote while keeping her other support at Bush levels, then she wins in a landslide. If whites decide they don't trust her, she loses.
Condi's road map to the White House
Road map 1: white support is unchanged, and Condi gets 25% of the black vote. That reduces the margin for Dems from a net of 8.5 point to 5.5 points--a loss of 3% nationally in the polls. I would think 25% would be a floor for Condi. If she gets that, then she wins nationally 52.5-46.5.
Road map 2: white support is unchanged, and Condi gets 50% of the black vote. Condi's chances of picking up 50% or more of the black vote are excellent. As with Jimmy Carter in 1976 (first candidate f0r president from the Deep South since Reconstruction) and John F. Kennedy (first Catholic candidate for president since the 1920s), Condi will likely benefit from a "first-time" surge within her key social identity group. It should also be noted that most African American voters are female. The Democratic party will find it difficult to convince a majority of African American voters to vote against the first African American majority party candidate for the White House. If she merely gets 50% of the black vote, then she wins nationally by about 56-44.
Road map 3: white support is unchanged, and Condi gets over 50% of the black vote. I would not expect Condi to carry black votes by an overwhelming margin--the GOP has too much historical baggage. I would be surprised if she got 60%; a margin of 52-48 looks more reasonable to me. But if she carried 60%, then she wins by a net of 14%; perhaps 57-43%.
Question: could Condi do better than W among whites? Yes. Most of the time when a president runs for re-election, his performance can be predicted fairly reliably by the performance of the economy in the period prior to re-election. Bush substantially underperformed most of these predictions--and the most likely reason is the controversy over the war in Iraq. If Iraq is not a major issue in 2008 and the economy does well, Condi could in principle outperform Bush. But there are so many question marks about the problems of a single black woman picking up votes among the married white voters that are the GOP's base, that the safest thing is to assume that the Bush 2004 totals will be a ceiling for Condi 2008 among whites. If she exceeds Bush's support among whites, then we are talking about an electoral tsunami for the GOP.
How Condi could lose
Loss map #1: I can't see Condi getting less than 25% of the black vote; so I will assume that figure as a floor. That cuts the Dem advantage among blacks to a net of 5.5 points. Condi could lose if support slumps off among whites. It actually doesn't take very much. If whites only break even for Condi, then she loses by about 53-46. If my 25% floor for black for Condi is correct, then she must carry whites by 55-45 percent to win; if she slips to 54-46, then she loses. Since W carried whites 58-41, even a small erosion of white support for Condi could defeat her candidacy.
Loss map #2: It's very difficult to anticipate how Hispanics will react to Condi. I don't think she will gain any votes among Hispanics for being a minority; on the other hand, I can't see her doing worse 33%. In principle, the Democrats could add another 1.7% to their edge nationally if Condi only scores the minimum with the Latino vote.
Condi vs Hillary:
The above are offered as basic scenarios designed to set limits to speculation as to how Condi would do. What is the most plausible scenario?
I assume that Condi would run against Hillary in 2008. If Condi wins the GOP nomination, Hillary will be forced to put Barack Obama on the ticket. Condi will need to nail down the conservative base, and will likely put a white conservative on the ticket.
The entire situation will be politically completely unprecedented, and therefore more difficult to predict. How will white married men react to Condi? White single men? White married women? White single women? Much of the increase in Bush's 2004 support came among white married women, and Hillary may well be able to cut into this bloc running against a black single woman.
For what it's worth, I suspect that in a Condi/Hillary showdown the black community will react poorly to Hillary--I don't think they view her with the same enthusiasm as they do Bill.
As in 2004, the two states of Ohio and Florida will be critical. The GOP in Ohio has a reasonably strong relationship with black voters--and Ohio in 2008 may well have a GOP black governor. I would expect Condi to beat Hillary in Ohio. In Florida, the Hispanic community is conservative and more Cuban than in other parts of the USA--I would expect them to be comfortable with Condi and help her carry the state.
Overall, Condi can carry the most important swing states against Hillary. And I think she would carry the country. But I don't think she'd be as safe a bet to beat Hillary as would McCain. Overall, the best estimate right now might be that she carries the black vote by about 52-48 against Hillary/Barack Obama and carries perhaps 52-54% of the white vote for a victory nationally somewhere in the 52-54% range (depending on what the Hispanic vote does).