ENPR: Racial Divide Guarantees Obama Nomination
- In the wake of Sen. Hillary Clinton‘s dismal performance Tuesday, pressure will mount on her to get out of the Democratic presidential race against Sen. Barack Obama. She and her inner circle are determined to stay in, but since there is no way she can be nominated, don’t be surprised if she gets out before the primaries end in June.
- Clinton needed a strong showing Tuesday in order to make a convincing pitch to super-delegates. Now her arguments to the super-delegates will go down two paths: a) The national polls that have shown Clinton running better than Obama against Sen. John McCain (though those surveys are sure to look different soon); or b) Clinton operative Harold Ickes is repeating his campaign’s familiar refrain: We don’t know enough about Obama, and Republicans will take dead aim against him in the general election campaign.
- Those pitches to the super-delegates will likely fall flat, even for super-delegates who fear that Obama may have a glass jaw (his campaigning in the last two weeks has not reassured them). He won Tuesday not on the strength of his campaigning, but because North Carolina was suited for him and Indiana, a neighbor of Illinois with many voters part of the Chicago media market, was no Pennsylvania or Ohio.
- Nevertheless, Clinton cannot catch Obama, and the bottom line is race. Obama won over 90 percent of the African-American vote in both states Tuesday, and that made life difficult for Clinton. Super-delegates flinch at going for Clinton because it would be seen as intentionally blocking the first black candidate with a chance to be nominated for president-threatening to alienate the most loyal element in the Democratic Party’s base.
- In his victory speech Tuesday night, Obama recovered from his recent subpar campaigning and reverted to his charismatic preaching style. He predicted the Republicans would launch personal attacks on him, while he would stay on the high road. Obama seemed even to rule out labeling him a liberal-a self-portrait that the news media will reliably reinforce. In the meantime, Democratic ads already have started to label as McCain as a) old and b) the third term of George W. Bush.
- McCain’s "honeymoon"-the interval between his clinching the Republican nomination and Obama’s clinching the Democratic honeymoon-has ended. McCain has largely solidified his Republican base but still has to worry about evangelical holdouts, such as Virginia home-school advocate Michael Farris. Reports of non-support from former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee are not true, however. He still needs to worry about the broad lack of enthusiasm for him among Republican voters.
- With Clinton about to be out of the picture, look for a big Obama jump in the polls to take a lead-maybe a commanding lead-against McCain. The dreadful state of the GOP, as reflected in its recent loss of a Louisiana congressional seat (see below), was bound to catch up with the presidential race. McCain cannot win without sustained battering of Obama, a tactic that McCain deplores.
Overview: Any reasonable doubt about the nomination was erased yesterday with Obama’s outperforming expectations in both states.
- Clinton had lost any chance of winning the race for pledged delegates back in February, after the Maryland, D.C., and Virginia primaries. Her thin hope rested on a popular-vote victory nationwide-a hope shattered last night.
- Obama is now in "dead girl/live boy" territory for the nomination. The central question is: When will Clinton give up the ghost. In truth, the remaining primaries look strong for her.
- Obama scored a tiny, little-noticed victory in Guam’s caucuses over the weekend.
North Carolina: Hillary’s Hail Mary pass here fell dreadfully short.
- Obama was supposed to win here, but 56% is a stomping-exceeding expectations. The huge win follows on increased speculation (and GOP hopes) that Clinton would make this a real contest.
- Obama won 91% of the black vote, according to exit polls. That’s a higher percentage of the black vote than he won in earlier states, and blacks are a bigger portion of the electorate here than in most states. His continued weak performance among white Democrats (37%) suggests Obama as nominee would do even worse in the South than other recent Democrats.
- The universities, black areas, and the wine-and-cheese crowd in Charlotte all backed Obama, while Clinton ruled only the white rural counties. This shows that she failed to reach beyond her standard base in North Carolina.
- Clinton’s push here-spending more money in North Carolina than in Indiana-reflected her awareness that she needed to show late momentum by finishing close here if she was going to convince super-delegates that Obama’s balloon had been pierced by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright flap or his "bitter" comments.
- Obama’s massive 230,000-vote victory here ends Clinton’s hope of winning the popular vote.
Indiana: Clinton’s tiny win here was a loss-one that may have ended her slim hopes.
- She needed to win Indiana by more than she lost North Carolina. Even a five-point win here would have been bad news. Winning by less than two points is a disaster.
- Obama won 59%-41% among first-time primary voters, which wiped out most of Clinton’s 10-point win among repeat primary voters.
- Obama dominated Indianapolis, winning 67% of Marion County. Winning St. Joseph County (containing South Bend and two universities, but also heavily Catholic), and carrying Lake County (including Gary and the "white-flight" Chicago suburbs) by 12 points were his most impressive showings. Clinton won the state on the strength of the rural vote in central and southern Indiana.
- Exit polls show a clearer ideological correlation than in most states. Basically, the more liberal you were, the more likely you were to vote for Obama. Sex and income did not affect voting patterns.
- Race numbers here were the same as in North Carolina: Obama won 92% of black voters while Clinton won 60% of white voters. This increasing racial polarization could be bad news for Democrats.
Going Forward: Clinton remains in the race, and the remaining primaries tend to favor her. This suggests she might not drop out until the voting is done.
- Obama carried the day by about 200,000 votes, extending his popular-vote margin to 715,000-an insurmountable lead. Even with Florida counted, Obama leads by about 420,000.
- It will take a massive super-delegate movement, or a very strong nudge by her supporters in the Senate or the party for her to drop out. The final five states plus Puerto Rico break slightly for her, as she has the edge in the three larger contests.
- In next week’s West Virginia primary, Hillary Clinton will dominate. The Mountain State lacks a liberal base of students or wealthy whites and is only 3.3% black. Polls show her leading by nearly 30 points. She should win at least 18 of the 28 delegates, and could make a net pickup of about 70,000 to 80,000 votes.
- Oregon, with its large hippie population, leans strongly towards Obama in the May 20 primary. The two most recent polls show him around 50%, leading Clinton by a margin of 6 to 12 points. His eventual margin will probably be near the upper end of that range.
- Kentucky holds its primary the same day as Oregon (May 20), and this should be Clinton walk-over. With the exception of Louisville, this state is white and rural, and prone to gun- and religion-clinging. Expect a 2-to-1 Clinton margin.
- Puerto Rico‘s June 1 primary may have the highest turnout of the remaining primaries. Clinton is the heavy favorite, despite the lack of reliable polls. Gov. Anibal Acevedo-Vila has endorsed Obama, but subsequently has been indicted.
- South Dakota and Montana on June 3 hold the two final primaries, and both lean in Obama’s direction. While small in delegate impact, two Obama wins could provide a handy hook on which Clinton could hang her dropping out.
Other Recent Results
Indiana Governor:: Former Rep. Jill Long Thompson (D) edged out Indianapolis architect Jim Schellinger (D) in the primary, earning the right to challenge vulnerable Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) in the fall. A huge showing in her former northeast Indiana congressional district boosted her to 50.2% yesterday.
Louisiana-1: State Sen. Steve Scalise (R) comes to Congress, filling the seat left vacant by the resignation of Rep. Bobby Jindal (R), now the governor. In Saturday’s special election Scalise thrashed college teacher Gilda Reed (D) by a 3-to-1 margin in this Republican stronghold.
Louisiana-6: A heavily Republican district in the country’s most Republican-trending state is now in the hands of a Democrat, after State Rep. Mike Cazayoux (D) defeated former State Rep. Woody Jenkins (R) in Saturday’s special election. The win has Democrats gloating. National or statewide implications exist, but are probably minimal.
This Baton Rouge district gave 59% of its vote to George Bush in 2004 and convincingly elected Rep. Richard Baker (R) to 11 terms before he resigned in February to become the head of the Managed Funds Association. Democrats argue that their ability to win this seat shows the depth and the breadth of the country’s discontent with Bush and the GOP. The Democratic spin is hyperbole, but considering that Louisiana is one of the few bright spots for the GOP on the entire map this year, Cazayoux’s loss has got to make Republicans everywhere sweat.
To be sure, there were extraordinary circumstances in this race, the most significant being Woody Jenkins himself. Louisianans in politics, both Republicans and Democrats, regularly refer to Jenkins’s "baggage." His protest of his controversial narrow loss to Mary Landrieu (D) in the 1996 Senate race, his indirect ties to David Duke, and-most important-his shrill tone all work against him. Some moderate Republicans worried whether Jenkins would make their state and their town look bad. President Bush visited the district during the special election and hosted a fundraiser for presumptive Senate candidate John Kennedy (R), but he never appeared with or mentioned Jenkins. Any other GOP nominee might have won this district.
Democrats also nominated the best possible candidate. Cazayoux has amassed a pro-life, pro-gun record in the legislature, and his campaign established him as a conservative legislator early. He described himself as a "John Breaux Democrat," and Breaux, a longtime Senate moderate, endorsed Cazayoux and sent out last-minute robo-calls.
When the Jenkins campaign, outside groups, and the National Republican Congressional Committee came in to try to paint Cazayoux as a Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama liberal, it had limited impact.
Insofar as Cazayoux’s victory hung on his distancing himself from the Democratic Party, it is hard to see this as a Republican repudiation or a Democratic mandate. But Cazayoux was another shrewd pick by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, showing that Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D.-Ill.) is more interested in party-building than in ideological purity.
Cazayoux’s victory is made more impressive by the attempt by some black Democrats in the district to trip him up. In the primary, Cazayoux defeated State Rep. Michael Jackson (D), an African-American. After losing, Jackson indicated he would run in the November general election as an independent. This highlights the divide between conservative white Democrats and more liberal black Democrats in the state. In fact, black Baton Rough Mayor Kip Holden (D) basically withheld his support from Cazayoux.
The low turnout of the special election may have helped Cazayoux, considering that government employees-a left-leaning bunch, taken as a whole-tend to be overrepresented in low-turnout races. Because Baton Rouge is the state capital, the public-payroll constituency could have made the difference.
Republicans have a strong shot to take this seat back in November. If Jackson runs, or if Republicans come up with a different nominee than Jenkins, Cazayoux would be an underdog. Even Jenkins, however, with a presidential race and a Senate race on the top of the ticket could possibly win here. For now, however, Baton Rouge is a Democratic town in a Republican state.
North Carolina Governor: Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R) fended off a spirited challenge by State Sen. Fred Smith (R) to win the GOP nomination in this open-seat governor race. Gov. Mike Easley (D) is being forced into retirement by term limits, and his lieutenant governor, Bev Perdue (D), will be the Democratic standard-bearer, winning her primary last night with 55%.
North Carolina-10: Rep. Walter Jones (R) easily staved off pro-war challenger Joe McLaughlin (R) racking up a 60%-to-40% win. Jones, who has become a vocal critic of the Iraq War following his early support, survived in this military- and veteran-heavy district. He should be safe in the fall.
North Carolina-11: Freshman Rep. Heath Shuler (D) will face Asheville City Councilman Carl Mumpower (R) in November. Mumpower won a three-way primary with 48% for the right to face Shuler in this GOP district.