I think I’m sick of the general election guessing game more than I’m sick of the primary. But I keep falling for it when Eric Earling pontificates on Obama. And he’s not even my candidate.
The Depth of Obama’s Problem
The fact that Hillary Clinton does better among white and Hispanic working class voters is a problem for Obama in the primary. It’s mostly because Hillary’s domestic policies will be better for working class voters. But the differences between them are largely degree, while the differences between either of them and McSame are differences in kind, so I suspect working folks will support the Democratic nominee, just like they always do in non-blow-out elections.
Barack Obama is the probable Democratic nominee. Let’s be clear on that point since some Obama backers seem to believe that pointing out his electoral weaknesses in the primary season amounts to saying he isn’t going to win the nomination. It’s possible, though the superdelegates will probably fall his way barring a major gaffe or surprise revelation.
No. The point is that you can’t really tell from the primary how the general election is going to shake out. I’m sick of that aspect of the primary.
Nonetheless, the magnitude of his problem appealing to critical components of the Democratic coalition is not going to go away. Though Obama backers claim the party will unite behind him, it shouldn’t take a well-paid political strategist to figure out that urban liberals are more likely to unite behind any Democratic standard bearer than Joe and Jill Six-Pack.
I don’t know why lower income people from rural and suburban parts of the country are suddenly going to like not having access to healthcare or for that matter are going to suddenly decide that Iraq is actually going neat.
While the media conversation in recent days has been heavy on Obama’s defeat across large swaths of Pennsylvania, Ohio isn’t the only similar such state that so profoundly demonstrates the divisions in the Democratic coalition.
Divisions in a primary. That’s what primaries are for: So the party can hash out its differences. It doesn’t mean Obama is going to lose working class Democrats any more than Hillary will lose African Americans if she is the nominee.
Lost in the shuffle of Super Tuesday were the results of Missouri and Tennessee as well. Though Obama won the former and Clinton the latter of those February 5th states, the same pattern holds across all four of these contests: Obama wins urban areas, counties with significant African-American populations, and state capitals. Absent those havens, Clinton thrashes him in the exurbs, blue-collar towns, and rural areas.
Yes, but if Obama wins the nomination, he won’t be running against someone who has been working for working folks for decades. He’ll be working against someone who does high dollar fundraisers during his poverty tour.
Liberals and assorted Obama sympathizers keep claiming this is all some demographic, political-wonk speak that shouldn’t or won’t amount to much. Lance Dickie at the Seattle Times attributes it to the Jedi mind tricks of Karl Rove. That works if one presumes that the Architect is running the New York Times, whose splendid chart looking at Clinton and Obama’s victories by county validates all of the discussion of where Obama quite clearly is and isn’t succeeding in swaying primary voters.
Um, or policy might drive votes a little bit. And I’m not sure a primary election chart that excludes Michigan, Florida, Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Maine, and all of the states that haven’t voted yet, but double counts Texas is perfectly valid for assessing the general election. And again to the point of this post, these are primary voters, not general election ones.
Issues are important in Presidential elections. Yet, time and again history has shown the American people also take a broader measure of the candidates – especially in comparison to one another. On that score, Obama is failing quite spectacularly with a demographic chunk of the Democratic coalition that has been known to stray to the Republican side when left wanting by Democratic fare. His failure should be recognized as even more acute given the lack of serious policy differentiation between Clinton and Obama on the issues about which idealistic liberals seem so eager to hold dialogues in perpetuity.
There are serious policy differences between Obama and Clinton. That’s the goddamn reason for why different segments of the Democratic coalition support one or the other of them. Hillary Clinton supports universal healthcare, Obama wants it for children, but only universal access for the rest of us. Hillary will do more to stem the foreclosure crisis. On the other side of the ledger, Obama’s foreign policy will be less imperialistic. These are important debates worth having within the party, even as the odds are long. It doesn’t mean we can’t come together once it’s over.
Thus, it’s just about time to make the believed, if not stated, view of many Republicans clear on Barack Obama: “Please nominate this man.“
He would be like Howard Dean. Haw haw. I don’t even know what that means. Did Dean lose a general election that I’m not aware of?
UPDATE: the gnashing of teeth on this issue among some Democrats spills into public view.
At some point this post was going to be an excuse to share my brilliant debate proposal. I don’t exactly know how I didn’t fit it in, but anyway, here it is: put them at a table in a blank room. No moderators, no dumbass questions. 5 minute opening statements, then a 20 minute conversation on any topic, chosen by Hillary (healthcare if I was advising her). Then 20 minutes on any topic chosen by Obama (Iraq maybe). Then 20 minutes of anything goes. 5 minute closing statements. Put it live on both candidates’ web pages (and just the fundraising from that many more people going to their web pages would probably be enough to offset the cost) but make sure that the networks and other news orgs have access to high quality video. It might look a little too AV club (or worse Blogging Heads TV) but on the other hand, it might be a real debate instead of who has more awesome flag pins.