The task ahead

Posted: June 4, 2008 in Politics

“Despite Clyburn’s backing and the increased numbers and enthusiasm of black voters for Obama, their votes weren’t enough to put him over the top in the big states against Clinton; let alone to beat McCain in the general election. That’s even truer now than it was at the start of Obama’s primary slugfest with Clinton. The same exit polls that show that Obama does phenomenally well with black voters also show that he does abysmally with blue collar whites, rural voters, older middle income white women, and Latinos. They are also a vital part of the vote demographic. Without their backing no Democratic presidential candidate can win the White House. In exit polls in the must win battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, a significant percent of these Democrats thundered that if Obama is the candidate they will vote for McCain or stay home.

Democrats bank that if this turns out to be more than an angry idle threat they can offset loss of their votes with a full throttle press to get even greater numbers of blacks to the polls. This shaky assumption rests squarely on the myth that the black vote wins presidential elections. This myth has been tossed about for so long that it’s taken on the proportion of a political urban legend.

In 2000, black voters made up nearly 11 percent of the overall voter. They gave the Democratic presidential contender Al Gore 90 percent of their vote. In 2004, black voters made up nearly 12 percent of the vote and gave Democratic presidential contender John Kerry 88 percent of the vote. Gore and Kerry lost.

In 2004, then presidential contender Howard Dean openly worried that Democrats could not beat Bush unless they got a bigger share of white male votes. He quipped that the Democrats had to court beer-guzzling white guys who wave the Confederate flag. That brought howls of protests from Dean’s Democratic rivals and the charge that Dean was pandering to unreconstructed bigots to get more white votes in his column.

A chastised Dean got it right. He simply crunched the numbers and recognized that white males make up more than one-third of the electorate. In 2000, exit polling showed that while white women backed Bush over Gore by 3 percentage points, white men backed him by 27 percentage points. Four years later the margin was 26 points for Bush over Kerry among white males. And since Kerry made only a weak, half-hearted effort to court white male voters in the South, Bush got nearly seventy percent of the white male vote there, and a second sweep of the South and a second term.” (Earl Ofari Hutchinson in his latest article entitled “Black Voters are Obama’s Catch 22“)

If Obama is going to get to the White House, Democrats are going to have to do a much better job going after White blue collar workers, and low income Whites. This is going to be interesting for two reasons that immediately come to mind: #1 – All during the campaign when polling data showed that low-income, under-educated Whites were going for Clinton, the joke amongst many Obama supporters I came across online was “Only someone stupid would go for Clinton”, referencing the educational levels of her support base. #2 – States that did not go for Obama like Pennsylvania, Kentucky West Virginia and Texas during the DEMOCRATIC primaries were quickly framed BY OTHER DEMOCRATS as bastions of racist Whites who would much rather slit their own throats than to see a Black man as president. Now those very same critics are going to have to go back to the demographics I just outlined and beg for their vote in November.

Personally, I do not foresee a mass jump to McCain by disgruntled Clinton supporters. Then again, I could be wrong as this has been a very weird political season. What is pretty certain is that Obama has a much bigger job ahead of him now that we have entered into general election season.

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Comments
  1. Wizz says:

    This demographic has consistently gone to republicans since before the civil rights era. Bill Clinton didn’t win them and Hilary probably wouldn’t have won them either. There is a BIG difference between party primaries and the general election among this group.

    And if there are any potential defections because of Obama getting the nomination it will IMO easily be made up by people who normally would not have even cared enough to vote but now recognize the significance of this election.

  2. Duane says:

    This demographic has consistently gone to republicans since before the civil rights era.

    Not true and like other Obama supporters like you are trying to distance yourself from your fellow Democrats who have been widely been portrayed as “racists”, ignorant, and out of touch with the mainstream–by other Democrats.

    Like it or not, Obama is going to need them.

  3. MIB says:

    For a candidate who supposedly does poorly with ‘blue collar Whites’ and rural voters, Obama surely cleaned Clinton’s clock in states like Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and other states that have small Black populations. I don’t believe Obama faces much of a threat from various Demographic groups mutinying or staying at home.

    The wild card(s) are states like Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico, and (perhaps) Virginia whose congressional delegations are either in flux or trending Democratic. Then there are the independents — 1/3 of the total electorate in the general election — whose diversity defies easy categorization by wedge issues. While it goes without saying a Black candidate for national office HAS to form coalitions with White voter blocs (across class lines), it’s likely the ‘Red state/Blue state’ calculus isn’t applicable this year. I’d like to attribute much of that to Obama’s campaigning in states & districts Clinton wrote off as a losing proposition.

  4. Wizz says:

    What I said is VERY true… The group you described in YOUR analysis is one of the main planks of the Republican party… You of all people should know that. There are not a lot of democrats there. Clinton did NOT win this group of people. Look it up. It’s been reported multiple times. So obviously it is possible to win without them… And I’m not even recommending that. All I said is that it is possible. I want Obama to reach out to ALL people. And I am sure that he will. So don’t put me into that category… AGAIN… There is a big difference between a democratic primary (where you are only looking at democrats within this group) and the general election, where you are looking at the entire group which is overwhelmingly republican. Hopefully Obama can move those numbers. If so that will essentially kill the republican party.

    I haven’t called anyone racist so don’t put words into my mouth. What I said was that if there are people within that group who DO leave because they don’t like Obama for WHATEVER reason (racial, cultural, generational, whatever), they will be more than offset by the people who will vote just because of Obama. That could be blacks, young, educated people, … etc.

  5. Duane says:

    There are not a lot of democrats there.

    PA went for Democrats the last 4 elections. But I guess we are to overlook that fact. Plus, PA is union country which against your assesment is NOT a ‘plank’ in the Republican party.

    Obama surely cleaned Clinton’s clock in states like Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and other states that have small Black populations.

    That’s very true, but you must keep in mind that those primaries took place BEFORE Wright & the family stone. Once that broke out, much of the demographic went to Clinton since March. Not a good trend to have going into the general elections season. Even the Obama campaign recognizes this as their event coordinators reqested for White faces to appear behind Michelle Obama as she spoke to that crowd.

    I think that just on charisma alone, Obama has a huge advantage over McCain that does not require Clinton to be his veep. However, as Hutchinson is suggesting in his piece, much of Obama’s run so far looks like Kerry and Gore–just with more numbers from the same group. Howard Dean is right.

  6. Wizz says:

    The majority of PA does not fit into your description either (low-income, under-educated Whites), but I guess we are supposed to overlook that as well since it does not fit you narrative. And who says Obama can’t still win PA… without Hillary… He only lost to her by 10 pts. He blew her out by much wider margins in several other similar states. She won mostly because she was backed by Rendell. Period. He has already said that he will have Obama’s back fully for the general election.

    And I know you are not arguing that “low-income, under-educated Whites” are not largely for Republicans? Are you??

  7. Duane says:

    Wizz, Wizz, get a hold of yourself. I know Obama is a very sensitive topic for you, so chill.

    You mentioned that there were not a lot of Democrats in PA. I responded by mentioning the fact that PA actually went for Democrats in the past 4 (four) elections.

    Second, not once did I suggest that Obama could not get this demographic, that is you inserting that into the discussion. The entire post simply highlighted the areas that Obama need to work on. That’s it. What you are wanting me to say, I’ll leave that up to your own imagination.

  8. MIB says:

    Obama’s run a very different campaign than Kerry — whose general strategy Clinton’s mimicked completely.

    OK… part of the Democratic voting base fell hook, line, and sinker for Ms. Clinton’s race-baiting. I’m of the opinion that this demographic will still vote Democratic come November, especially in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, NY, and California, which means the net impact of the Wright brouhaha is minimal.

    Again, I suspect the real X factor is White independents for whom the Wright smear carries even less weight than with the registered voters of either party. The fact is the infrastructure of the Obama campaign is much more formidable in places where Democrats of late haven’t done well than the news media discloses. It translates into McCain having to work harder than contemporary GOP presidential nominees to win votes in ‘Red’ states. I tend to believe these factors will work to Obama’s advantage.

  9. Duane says:

    I’m of the opinion that this demographic will still vote Democratic come November

    With McCain as his opponent, no doubt. I think it is going to be Kennedy/Nixon all over again in the debates.

    As you know, I have no dog in the race. But I am really hoping that Obama does not go for the okie-doke and pick Clinton for his veep. A. Do you forsee this happening and B. What effect do you think it would have? Just curious.

  10. Wizz says:

    Wizz, Wizz, get a hold of yourself.

    At what point did I lose control of myself? I find it hilarious how you always end up falling back on this almost every single time I attempt to have a descent conversation with you.

    You mentioned that there were not a lot of Democrats in PA.

    No I did not. I clearly said (multiple times) that there are not a lot of democrats among “low-income, under-educated Whites”. This group you seem to be saying democrats “have to do a much better job” with. Absolutely Obama wants to win these people over but it isn’t critical as you suggest. This group has not been with democrats for a VERY long time.

    What you are wanting me to say, I’ll leave that up to your own imagination.

    I don’t want you to say anything. You made a point. I didn’t agree with it. I provided a counter argument. Isn’t that what blogs are for? Let me know if I’m in the wrong place. All I ask is that you don’t try to twist my words. I know exactly what I want to say and don’t need you to try to interpret my words for me.

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