March 12, 2008


Obama Win Defined By Race (MICHAEL DUFFY, 3/12/08, TIME)

Broken down, the Mississippi vote had an unmistakable racial descant — and unmistakable limits for Obama. Exit polls revealed once again an emerging racial divide that has opened in the Democratic party between whites who tend by healthy margins to favor Clinton and blacks who overwhelmingly favor Obama. African Americans comprised nearly half of the Democratic vote in Mississippi — and 90% of those voters, according to exit polls, pulled the lever for Obama, his strongest showing yet among African Americans. But Obama did poorly among whites, winning only 30%, according to exit polls. While this split was visible in Alabama and the border state of Tennessee earlier this year, it was visible in Ohio's primary last week, too.

Mississippi is one of the most reliably Republican states in presidential elections. Only a Democrat who could win 35 to 40% of the white vote, while holding onto a lopsided percentage of blacks, could put the state in play in a head to head match with a Republican in the fall. Obama's 30% showing in the primary against Clinton falls short of that target.

Nonetheless, the win extends Obama's lead over Clinton in delegates by a net seven or eight delegates — a small number overall but important nonetheless. Hard as it is for a candidate to build a lead in a primary system ruled by a system of proportional allocation, it is even harder to catch up once you fall behind.

Democrats seek to strengthen grip on blue-collar workers: Labor groups fear that both of their flashy presidential candidates could lose support of so-called 'Reagan Democrats' to McCain. (Janet Hook and Tom Hamburger, 3/12/08, Los Angeles Times)
It is all part of a preemptive effort to stem battleground-state defections by union households and other working-class voters known as Reagan Democrats -- swing voters who have been courted by both parties ever since they tipped the balance for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election.

"That vote is up for grabs," said David Bonior, campaign manager for John Edwards' failed Democratic presidential bid. "We will have to work incredibly hard," he said, to blunt McCain's potential appeal to working-class voters, which is based on his status as a war hero and his reputation as a political moderate.

The AFL-CIO became concerned after polls and focus groups found considerable willingness among union members to consider supporting McCain, regardless of which Democrat won the nomination.

Republicans have signaled that they have the Reagan Democrats at the top of their target list. Ken Mehlman, a former GOP national chairman who is informally advising McCain, said the campaign's blue-collar outreach would attract Reagan Democrats for the same reason the former president did: McCain is seen as frank, a good leader, strong on defense and opposed to tax increases.

Some analysts say the threat of defections to McCain will be particularly acute if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. In many of this year's caucuses and primaries, Obama has lost working-class white voters to rival Hillary Rodham Clinton. Holding on to those voters in swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania will be one key to the party's efforts in November against McCain, the presumed GOP nominee.

"The Obama campaign has not been very successful in connecting with middle-aged, older, white working-class voters," said Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster who has done work for the AFL-CIO and is not affiliated with any candidate. "It is very important for them to understand why that is so because those are the kinds of voters who have been swing voters in the last two general elections."

Democratic voters have shown fairly consistent demographic patterns during the primary-season balloting: Clinton's strongest support has come from a coalition of lower-income and older voters, while Obama in most states has been strongest among blacks, upscale voters and the young.

A test of the party's effort to secure blue-collar workers will come April 22 with the Pennsylvania primary. On Tuesday, Obama won the Mississippi contest 61% to Clinton's 37%.

Looking toward the general election, labor strategists were alarmed by polls and focus groups of undecided union members that showed McCain doing well in match-ups with either Democratic candidate, said Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 12, 2008 6:55 AM

"Some analysts say the threat of defections to McCain will be particularly acute if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee."

"Some analysts"? Any "analyst" who doesn't "say" this should have their analyst card revoked. My 80-something-year-old grandmother, an FDR yellow-dog Democrat from upstate NY, asked me at Christmastime who I thought would be the next president. My inclination was to say McCain, but I didn't really want to talk about it, so I said I wasn't sure. She then said "I want Edwards. I don't really like Hillary. But you know who I can't stand? That Obama."

Posted by: b at March 12, 2008 10:00 AM