September 22, 2008


Obama campaign staff pulling out of ND (DALE WETZEL, 9/22/08, The Associated Press)

Barack Obama, who has deployed more than 50 staffers in North Dakota in an attempt to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1964, is pulling out.

An Obama spokeswoman, Amy Brundage, confirmed Sunday that the campaign's 11 North Dakota offices are being shut and its staffers dispatched to Minnesota and Wisconsin, where recent polls have shown a tight race between Obama and Republican John McCain.

What were they ever doing there when he can't even defend the base?, NBC POll: Pennsylvania Tigh (The Page, 9/22/08)
From NBC News/Mason Dixon poll:
Obama 46, McCain 44

Kwame Kilpatrick exits, with Barack Obama holding the door (Edward McClelland, Sep. 04, 2008, Salon)

In 2008, with the economy in recession -- in free fall in Michigan -- this bluish-purple state, which hasn't gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, should be Obama's for the taking. With Kilpatrick's misbehavior dominating the local news on every TV station in a metro area that holds nearly half Michigan's population, he's barely leading: A recent Detroit News poll has him beating McCain 43-41.

Ever since the 1967 riot sent hundreds of thousands of whites in a great migration across 8 Mile Road -- the city limit, and the symbolic border between black and white Detroit -- the city and its suburbs have coexisted as uncomfortably as Soweto and Johannesburg.

It was pollster Stanley Greenberg who discovered Detroit's white exiles resettled, but still seething, in Macomb County, and gave them the Linnaean name "Reagan Democrats." The original Reagan Democrat, circa 1980, was a blue-collar voter who abandoned his native party over antiwar protests, busing, affirmative action and welfare queens. Some Reagan Democrats were from an Appalachian background, their forebears having moved north for auto factory jobs. Many were ethnics, white Catholics whose ancestors had come to America long after slavery was abolished. Neither strain had much patience with white guilt, many were stung by Michigan's industrial implosion, as those factory jobs disappeared, and all were outraged by a court decision ordering cross-district busing to integrate their children's schools. (It was overturned by the Supreme Court.) They were also horrified at Detroit's transformation into the original New Jack City. Thanks to drug outfits like the Chambers Brothers and Young Boys Inc., the city had the highest murder rate in the nation.

During Greenberg's first trip to Macomb County, at the height of the Reagan years, he found that whites "expressed a profound distaste for black America, a sentiment that pervaded almost everything they thought about government and politics. Blacks constituted the explanation for their vulnerability and for almost everything that had gone wrong in their lives."

And now, for the last eight months, the local news emanating every day from this black city to its white suburbs has featured the legal, sexual and administrative misadventures of a black mayor who doesn't just play the race card, he is the race card. [...]

Kilpatrick escaped from the 2005 primary with 27 percent of the vote. But his opponent in the general election, an all-Democratic runoff, had a fatal handicap. Former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix had come in first in the primary with 44 percent of the vote, almost enough to prevent the runoff. But Freman wasn't his first name. It was Helmut, a moniker given him by his mother, an Austrian Army bride named Rudolfine Ernegger. Kilpatrick knew how to play the Oreo card. His supporters took out an ad in the Michigan Chronicle, Detroit's black newspaper, asking voters to "Just say 'no' to the suburban raiders and their puppet Helmut Hendrix (a.k.a. Freman)." Kwame's father, Bernard "Killer" Kilpatrick, compared his son's critics to Nazis. On Election Day, the mayor skunked the pollsters with a 6-point win.

It was a racist campaign, but it also played on the pride of black Detroiters. They relish their control over City Hall and the regional water supply (the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department serves all of southeastern Michigan), and are adamant that suburbanites have no right to reclaim what they abandoned.

"There's still a fear that the whites will come back and they'll take over the city, they'll take over the water department," a man from the West Side told me as I covered the campaign in 2005. "People say, 'We stayed. We suffered through the city for 40 years. The whites fled. Why should they come in and reap the benefits?'"

The whites are unlikely to return. If anything, they'd like to jackhammer 8 Mile and replace it with razor wire. Earlier this year, Greenberg went back to Macomb, where he found Obama "underperforming" among its tradition-minded Democrats. John Kerry lost the county by 1 point, but Obama was trailing McCain 46-39. Only 71 percent of Democrats were ready to vote for him, versus 85 percent of Democrats nationwide.

This time around, Greenberg found that voters still resented government aid to blacks. Presented with Robert F. Kennedy's statement that America has a "special burden" to help blacks, they responded, "Get over it" and "Didn't they get forty acres and a mule? That's more than I got." But they also distinguished Obama from black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who were disdained as demanding troublemakers. This time, Macomb County voters were far more concerned about the economy than about blacks, although there was a hint that Kilpatrick could revive the racial rivalry.

"Welfare, crime, reverse discrimination, blacks and Detroit were never mentioned in the discussion of why the country and state are off track, except for some asides about Detroit's pathetic mayor," Greenberg wrote. Obama's soft support in Macomb was more a matter of hesitation than resistance. Voters wanted assurance that Obama won't put black interests above white interests, that he'll work to keep blue-collar jobs in America, and that his exotic name and background won't prevent him from fighting terrorism. Race played a role in some of those concerns. But the poll also demonstrated that white, blue-collar voters are the toughest sell in any election: Resolutely middle class, they're skeptical of both elites and the poor, and they don't worship at the altar of either party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 22, 2008 7:42 AM
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