February 19, 2008


Does Obama Have an Asian Problem? (Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, 2/18/08, TIME)

In California, where Asian-Americans make up 8% of the electorate, a CNN exit poll found they voted three to one in her favor. In New York, the Asian American Legal Defense Fund's exit poll concluded that 87% of Asian-American Democrats backed their state's senator. In New Jersey, it was 73%. From no other group did Clinton command that kind of loyalty; she won 69% of Latino voters in California, for example, compared to 75% of Asians. Publications including AsianWeek and some local editions of ethnic newspapers like Sing Tao have endorsed her, as have prominent politicians including former Gov. Gary Locke of Washington and Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.

And while Asian-Americans, accounting for just 5% of the population, may not have the numbers to sway the nomination one way or another, their overwhelming support of Clinton has led to a serious debate about what might lie behind it. Experts have speculated about a variety of possible reasons having little to do with race: Like other new immigrants, Asian-Americans are more conservative in their choices for leaders, and therefore likely to go with the known entity — which in this race, thanks to her husband and her time in the White House, is Clinton. Many Asians are business owners who prospered under Bill Clinton. Just 34% of Asian-Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 vote, according to a slick commercial by MTV's Choose of Lose Campaign, which may eat into Obama's poll numbers. Perhaps most significantly, the Clinton campaign had long ago locked up support from local politicians, who hold unusual sway over their ethnic communities.

But the touchy question about race is the one getting the most attention.

Suffice it to say, if Senator Obama is the nominee he'll have to defend the West Coast, unheard of in recent cycles for a Democrat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 19, 2008 12:00 AM
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