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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Breaking Down the Demographics

David Paul Kuhn @ Politico writes up the results of last night's two contests in North Carolina and Indiana. Pay close attention to where Senator Obama's strengths are in the opening of the piece:

According to exit polls, a third of North Carolina voters were black — and with the support of more than nine in 10 black voters, Barack Obama was able to overcome Hillary Rodham Clinton’s white support and win the Tar Heel State.

Eight in 10 voters in Indiana were white — and with the support of six in 10 whites, Clinton won a narrow victory in the state.

On the demographic front, there were no big surprises Tuesday night, as the two groups most personally vested in the symbolism of their candidate — white women and blacks — were once again the most loyal to their candidate. Still, there were unique findings in the two states that separated these voters from past contests — particularly the power of the issue of economic anxiety.

Nearly seven in 10 Indiana voters said the economy was the most important issue, as did six in 10 North Carolinians. That degree of economic concern in Indiana was above financial angst in Pennsylvania or even Ohio, a state hit especially hard by unemployment.

But unlike in Pennsylvania, the voters most anxious about the economy were not handily carried by Clinton. In Indiana, she won only a slim majority of these voters and in North Carolina, Obama won a majority. ...

Equally of note, the often double-digit white gender gap hardly registered in Indiana. Clinton won about six in 10 white women there, about the same margin as her showing on Super Tuesday in early February, but below her showing in Pennsylvania, where she won nearly seven in 10 white women.

Yet her emerging strength among Democratic white male voters, the key swing bloc of the primaries, compensated for that dip. Clinton won nearly six in 10 white men, only a couple of percentage points behind white women, in Indiana. Clinton has won white men in 13 states.

Obama has won white men in 10 states. At Obama’s high point, following his victory in Wisconsin, he had won the white male vote in three consecutive Democratic contests.

When Clinton wins hotly contested primaries, she does so with white men.

Clinton has now won the swing bloc of white men in all of the recent Rust Belt contests, from Ohio to Pennsylvania to Indiana. In North Carolina, she also won a majority of white men and maintained the support of more than six in ten white women.

Obama seems to have gained back some of his strength with young white voters. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, white voters under age 30 were split between the two Democrats, though early in the primary race this was a key bloc of Obama’s base. In both states Tuesday, Obama won a clear majority of the white youth vote and, as always, youth overall.

Senator Obama's strengths come from two specific demographics -- black voters and youth voters. These are both a boon and a bust. If Senator Clinton manages to snag the nomination, or the Democrat superdelegates nominate what they would call a "consensus candidate," black voters have threatened to stay home, or simply not vote for president. Black voters have been turning out for Democrats for decades, and have comprised a potent voting bloc for them. To annoy them now could prove fatal in the fall.

Likewise, hanging their hopes on the youth vote could prove to be disastrous for them. They do tend to turn out in greater numbers for the primaries, but they are notably absent in the general election. Yes, Senator Obama can take white voters, but the numbers show that they will be younger white voters, not the older voters that makes up the Democrat base.

The question remains: "Can Hillary Clinton make up for her shortcomings?" The answer remains to be seen. She has not made inroads with either the black bloc or the youth bloc. And if she is the nominee, it is a likely scenario that she would lose both in the general election. In fact, the youth vote that Obama has relied on may just switch sides in the general if she were the nominee, and instead vote for John McCain. Senator McCain, we will remind readers, has made significant inroads to the youth despite his age.

In the end when we look at the results of the primaries yesterday, there is no clear-cut, definitive winner as yet. Neither one will bow out. Neither one will have the delegates needed to reach the required 2,025 mark. This will go to the convention in Denver in August, and given the tenacity of both candidates, this will not be a pretty process. This past weekend Thomas cited a piece by Thomas Edsell where it is being speculated that Senator Clinton could execute a "nuclear option" when the Rules and Bylaws Committee meets in July. She does have a valid argument for them and superdelegates when it comes to Senator Obama, and his inability to carry Midwestern states, especially given his recent comments that voters tend to take as an insult to them. Hugh Hewitt spent two days going over a speech recently given by Michelle Obama that also adds insult to injury.

Common sense voters will simply not vote for a man who belittles them, with a wife who follows in his footsteps. People do not like to be insulted. People also do not like people who rub elbows with corrupt individuals (Tony Rezko), with terrorists (William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn), or racist demagogues (Jeremiah Wright). His supporters have given him a pass on these associations, but the nation will not. Based on the Demographics above Paul Begala was spot-on last night on CNN's Election Center:

"We cannot win with egg heads and African-Americans. OK, that is the Dukakis Coalition, which carried ten states and gave us four years of the first George Bush."

Despite the fact that we never see eye-to-eye with Paul Begala, he is correct. Senator Obama cannot win with the demographics he has been winning with consistently. He has been losing the white votes, the Latino votes, and the seniors' votes. He comes off as an effete snob to many and that was John Kerry's problem in 2004. In 2000 Al Gore came off as aloof; his debate performances sealed his fate. When the general election begins, Senator Obama is going to show this nation why he is not ready for primetime.



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