February 10, 2008


Whose Coalition Is Bigger? (Ronald Brownstein, 2/08/08, National Journal)

Obama almost everywhere carried young people, independents, well-educated voters, men, and African-Americans. In most places, Clinton carried seniors, partisan Democrats, voters without college educations, women, and Latinos.

These trends occasionally wavered: Clinton carried young people in California and Obama won women (albeit narrowly) in Delaware, Missouri, and Utah. But mostly, Tuesday's results followed the demographic grooves apparent not only in their January contests but also in polling stretching well back into 2007.

Given that stability, it is reasonable to assume that the patterns of support for Obama and Clinton may not change much going forward. If so, it raises an obvious question: If each candidate holds roughly his or her existing coalition, whose side of the party is bigger?

The answer isn't so obvious. No previous Democratic presidential candidate has joined well-off whites to African-Americans as Obama is doing: It is as if he is melding the constituencies of Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson from 1984. Clinton's lunch-bucket coalition of core Democrats motivated by material needs is more familiar -- Walter Mondale, who ran against Hart and Jackson in 1984, would surely recognize it -- but she adds to that familiar picture a new gender twist and a dominant position among Latinos. [...]

March 4 looms as the critical date for Clinton. That's when Texas and Ohio vote, and both are the sort of brawny blue-collar states that favor her. If Obama generates enough momentum in February to swipe either, it could trigger a rush toward him from party leaders eager to end the race (especially because John McCain seems likely to claim the GOP nomination by then). But if Clinton holds both, she could consolidate an advantage over Obama in the other beefy states that follow: Pennsylvania in April, and then Indiana and Kentucky -- which don't vote until May and may find their decisions more relevant than they, or anyone else, had expected.

The ideological Democrats obviously aren't going anywhere, but with such a racially-benign Republican nominee can the Party count on blacks or Latinos to stay put?

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 10, 2008 6:12 AM
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