Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Obama overtakes Clinton (It's about time!)

The presidential backers of Hillary R. Clinton want to think that her dream of working in the Oval Office remains alive because of her recent victories in West Virginia and Kentucky – simply put, she kicked Barack Obama’s butt in those two Appalachian states.

Yet a look at the big picture (which is what the presidency is really all about) shows that it is the Obama camp that is gaining in support, which explains why the bulk of super-delegates across the country are finally making up their minds to back Barack when they travel to Denver for the Democratic National Convention in late August.

OBAMA AND CLINTON did the expected on Tuesday – she took Kentucky by almost as big a margin of victory as her 41 percent lead in West Virginia, while Obama appeared to have won the vote-by-mail Democratic primary in Oregon.

But the more interesting results may have come early in the day when the Gallup Organization (which admittedly is the same group that had us thinking Thomas Dewey would be our president in the 1948 election) released its latest results.

After showing earlier this week that Obama had gone from 49 percent of the Democratic vote and a slim 4 percent lead over Clinton at the beginning of May, the group showed Obama with a 16 percent lead and 55 percent of the Democratic vote (with only 39 percent staying with Clinton).

How was that shift possible?

AT LEAST ONE factor should have been expected. The Tuesday results showed 51 percent of Latino voters say they will back Obama, with only 44 percent supporting Clinton.

This is the first poll showing Obama taking a majority of the Latino vote, although previous polls (and common sense observations) have indicated that a significant portion of the Hispanic voter bloc resents being used as a piñata by Republican partisans wishing to score political points with social conservatives.

They had indicated a preference for a Democrat as president, regardless of who receives the party’s nomination. Republican John McCain has a long fight ahead of him if he wants to gain any significant support from Hispanic people.

Obama now supposedly has the lead (who knows how reliable any poll really is?) among people who never went to college (47 percent to 46 percent), women as a whole (49 percent to 46 percent) and people who live in the eastern U.S. (52 percent to 43 percent).

OBAMA REMAINS THE overwhelming favorite among African-American people, but the latest survey shows Clinton cannot claim to be the favorite of white voters (the two are tied at 47 percent apiece).

In fact, there’s really only one group that is remaining loyal to Camp Clinton – women 50 or older. She gets 52 percent of their support, according to Gallup. That, however, is a decline from the 55 percent she got just two weeks ago from those same older women who remember firsthand the fight for equality.

If anything, what these figures really mean is that a majority of the people who plan to vote and are not hostile to the concept of a Democrat as president are accepting the concept that Barack Obama has gained a slight majority of support nationwide, and they are coming around to the idea of voting for him.

It could mean that to Democrats, the so-called scandals that show Obama to be out-of-touch with U.S. society as a whole (retired Rev. Jeremiah Wright, one-time Weatherman-turned-educator Bill Ayers, his Ivy League educational background) don’t amount to much.

IT COULD ALSO mean that the people to whom these “issues” are of significance are people who likely are more conservative than the norm and more than likely were going to wind up voting for a Republican in the Nov. 4 elections. Obama never had their votes, so what did he really lose?

The one potential loss remains the continued support of older women, many of whom legitimately are upset that the notion of a first female president of the United States never turned Hillary Clinton into a symbolic gesture the way being potentially the first African-American president (even though he’s really bi-racial) helped enhance Obama’s image as a political “rock star.”

I can’t envision a lot of the women who consider themselves Democrats are going to turn around and back McCain for president. These women are among the base of people who desperately want the Republicans and anything that can be associated with George W. Bush out of the White House.

But could they “sit out” this election cycle? Anything is possible, and with this election likely to be as close as any election can be (a lot of people who won’t say anything in public will walk into that voting booth on Nov. 4 and suddenly realize they can’t support a black man for president), Obama needs every vote he can get.

HE IS GOING to have to reach out to gain the support of women in the coming weeks, and he had better go about showing some respect to Hillary Clinton (no, vice president for Hillary would be an insult, she deserves something better), and the political pontificators Tuesday night found traces of Obama reaching out to all people in his premature “victory” speech in Des Moines, Iowa.

There had better not be anything that resembles an act of political retribution against her, and she probably will have to receive something resembling a prominent cabinet post or a leadership spot in the U.S. Senate’s Democratic caucus.

But for those hard-core Hillary-ites who will argue that the potential loss of older women due to an Obama candidacy is enough reason to justify having the super-delegates give her the nomination instead, take this into account.

How would the African-American voter bloc (which usually gives about 90 percent of its support to Democratic presidential candidates, no matter which airhead the party has managed to come up with in recent years) respond to seeing their overwhelming preference rejected – not by voters, but by party bigwigs in a blatant political maneuver?

WHAT MAKES ANYONE think there wouldn’t be a massive sit-out by black voters if Hillary Clinton were the nominee? Even a Clinton/McCain political fight would be a close one, and the loss of a voter bloc as significant as the African-American one would be enough to cost Clinton the general election.

Democrats this year came up with at least two quality candidates (four, if one wants to go back a few months and count John Edwards and Bill Richardson) who ran in what is quite possibly the most competitive primary election of our lifetimes.

But once there is a nominee, that candidate has to show he can reach out to all people (or at least all who are not openly hostile – no one expects Obama to get the enthusiastic support of the ‘religious right’).

It’s called compromise, and it is a part of life (even though certain conservatives believe that it is what is wrong with modern-day electoral politics). A candidate who cannot compromise and reach a consensus on issues deserves to lose a general election because, in all likelihood, he would not be able to govern effectively.

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EDITOR’S NOTES: Take a look for yourself at the Gallup Organization results that show (http://www.gallup.com/poll/107407/Obama-Surge-Fairly-BroadBased.aspx) the U.S. voters shifting support to Barack Obama.

It’s all about the delegate counts these days, and Obama is expected to be the winner in that aspect (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-campaign21-2008may21,0,3985203.story) in Tuesday’s elections in Oregon and Kentucky.

Race remains an issue in this campaign (even if you prefer to think that people who remind you of that fact are, “playing the race card”). Who else would seriously think a t-shirt comparing Obama to the children’s storybook monkey Curious George (http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/race/2008/05/is-this-curious.html) is humorous?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great analysis. Personally, as a nearly 50-year-old woman (European descent) I am thrilled at the prospect of seeing such an able and worthy candidate as Barack Obama have a better than even shot at the White House.

I'm not the least bit disappointed that Hillary missed out, and indeed, as she began to function more and more like the catspaw of the Republican slander machine, and 'reached out' to extras from the Deliverance movie in the Appalachians I regarded her with disgust. Frankly, Had she been the candidate, I'd have sat out. I could never vote Republican but you can't have someone doing dogwhistle bigotry and getting the nod for the highest office in the land on that basis.

The election of Obama will put a line under the Bush years that Clinton simply cannot. I almost hope that the Republicans do their worst in smearing him, precisely so that when he's elected, we can change not only the policies of the officeholder, but rewite the architecture of the political process leading up to it. Cheats and bigots should never prosper. That, more than anything, is why the Obama presidency is so urgent and necessary, both in terms of how this country sees itself, and how others see us.

Sharon said...

As usual, a terrific post. As a 60+ year-old white woman I'm suppose to be for Hillary. Hogwash! I'm sick of hearing about her blue-collar base, her "ready day one" rants and her sour grapes Michigan/Florida appeal. The woman just doesn't get it.