Barack Obama scored a TKO against Hillary Clinton in North Carolina – winning by 56 % to 42%. Is it over? Is Clinton out of it? It is getting close. In a surprise, Barack Obama battled to a virtual tie in Indiana with the help of late counted votes from Lake County.
Barack Obama has been taking a beating lately. Even his most devoted fans – the MSM – were wondering if he could ever knock out Hillary Clinton who seems to be in fighting form these days. As one of Obama’s adoring fans, Margery Eagan, wrote in a Tuesday column, “We Obama girls are panicking.”
Recall that before Tuesday Obama hadn’t won a primary (other than Guam) since February (Wisconsin). Beginning in early March he lost primaries in Texas, Ohio and then Pennsylvania by significant margins, getting thumped by Hillary Clinton among whites, women, seniors, Catholics, rural voters, and working class voters.
Reverend Wright has erupted more frequently and with greater impact than all of Bill Clinton’s girlfriends combined. We had Snobgate – the revealing admission of condescension toward those voters before whom Obama now grovels. We also learned about his friendly relationship with unrepentant ex-terrorist Bill Ayers.
And Hillary Clinton? Despite her victories she had moved no closer to overtaking Obama in pledged delegates. Her trustworthiness ratings and favorable/unfavorable ratings make Republican operatives salivate.
These contestants — bruised and battered — entered Tuesday’s election bouts in Indiana and North Carolina. And they left with Obama staggering toward the finish line.
In Indiana it looked early in the evening like Clinton would once again pop off the canvas and sock it to Obama. Exit polling showed that she trounced Obama among whites, working class voters, seniors, women, and frequent church goers. Voters gave her the nod as the candidate best able to serve as commander-in-chief. On ideology Obama carried on self-identified “liberals,” losing moderates and conservatives. And what about Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos”? Well Republicans favored Clinton, for whatever reason. The candidate who was once seen as a greater draw for Republicans (Obama) is now losing among Republicans to Republicans’ arch-villainess.
But Indiana was friendly turf for Obama. Bordering his home state of Illinois with 25% of voters in the Chicago media market he had a built in base of support. He also had an overwhelming financial advantage. Obama carried voting groups that have been firmly in his corner from the beginning of his campaign – young voters and African Americans. As those late votes rolled in from Gary and the rest of Lake County the dreams of a Clinton third term became ever more improbable.
Then there was North Carolina with a batch of 115 delegates. With 35-40% of the electorate African American, Obama built up a double digit lead during April. By winning over 90% of African American voters he was able to win comfortably by double digits. However, once again whites, seniors and rural voters stuck with her. So score that round overwhelmingly for Obama, a blow to Clinton’s efforts to gain substantially in the pledged delegate count.
What of her appeal for a gas tax holiday? Apparently there weren’t many buyers. Despite her fervent appeals to help little guys with the price of a tank of gas, voters seemed largely unmoved.
The victory speeches told the story. Obama looked ebullient, with a rarely seen smile. He barely bothered with Clinton, other than to assure her supporters and his own that Democrats would kiss and make up. He added in new lines to try to evidence his devotion to America and belief in the land of opportunity. He began his defense again Republican attacks and "labels" which he called distractions and efforts to "divide" voters. So Republicans be forewarned: no "liberal" tags will be tolerated. This was the new and improved, general election Obama. Certainly, Michelle’s complaints about a "mean" country were nowhere to be seen.
As the vote counting stalled Clinton delayed and delayed her "victory" speech later into the night. When she finally appeared Bill was once again in the background, looking glum and distracted. She vowed to power on to the White House but her speech sounded wary and her plea to include Michigan and Florida delegates in the delegate vote count appeared a bit half-hearted.
In short, the Democrats may be inching toward a nominee but its electorate has become entirely polarized on racial and economic lines. While she could not break through and change the trajectory of the race, he has now incontrovertibly lost his appeal with whites, working class voters and seniors — all groups critical to his chances in November.
And in the first row watching this political fight grind toward an end sits McCain with a Cheshire cat grin. The potential for a Democratic nominee who mirrors the appeal of Michael Dukakis grows more certain each week. The possibility that a reinvigorated Clinton (with new found appeal with blue collar voters) could mount a coup and dislodge Obama from his perch becomes more remote, if not impossible.
That explains the spring in McCain’s step and the smile on his advisors’ faces. Not bad for a candidate who hasn’t yet broken a sweat.
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