Giant step

If Hillary Clinton can take Pennsylvania, the Democrats will be shooting themselves in the foot
By STEVEN STARK  |  March 5, 2008

080208_tote-main

Two weeks ago we noted that, in spite of all the press hype promoting Barack Obama, the Democrats were only two steps away from chaos in their nomination process.

Now make that one step.

An Obama sweep this past Tuesday was probably never in the cards, given Hillary Clinton’s strength among working-class voters and Hispanics, which she’s had virtually all along. But a Clinton sweep of Texas and Ohio is something the media did not prepare for, as they ignored the evidence staring them in the face and essentially drove Obama around the track for a victory lap before the race had ever taken place.

Now the party has a huge problem. Sure, Obama has a narrow lead among elected delegates — a margin he’s likely to hold after the run of primaries ends in June. And, on paper, he’s still the current favorite to win the nomination in August.

But if Obama emerges as the nominee, it’s now clear his campaign is headed into the autumn homestretch with some enormous holes.

Foremost among them is that Obama has yet to win a major state other than his own (Illinois) because he’s still having trouble appealing to both Hispanics and working-class Democrats —those so-called Reagan Democrats. As early as this past November, the Pew Forum was picking up signs in its polls that Obama was running significantly worse among Catholics than he was among virtually any other demographic group in the electorate.

That’s still true. Unfortunately for Obama, Hispanics and working-class voters are two groups with some affinity for John McCain. In recent head-to-head polls, for example, McCain handily beat Obama by double digits in Florida — a state once considered a key toss-up. In another poll, the presumed GOP nominee is slightly ahead of Obama in New Jersey, a blue state in which John Kerry defeated George Bush by seven percentage points in 2004.

Color by numbers
These are worrying signs for the Democrats, should Obama be the nominee, especially now that it appears the Obama-Clinton contest could drag on for months, further weakening whoever emerges as the Democratic candidate. Michael Barone, the ace principal author of The Almanac of American Politics, recently wrote that an Obama-McCain race would redraw the red-state–blue-state map of the past few elections. But a more accurate analysis is that while McCain would be competitive in many states — even California — once considered safely Democratic, it’s hard to see as many comparable states where Obama might do the same.

In addition to California, McCain has a reasonable shot at winning blue states Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and maybe even Wisconsin and Michigan, not to mention the key swing state of Ohio. Obama, on the other hand, has a shot at red states New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, and Virginia. McCain has the better hand to play.

This general-election weakness for Obama is sure to be an argument pressed by the Clinton forces in the days ahead. True, she probably wouldn’t have a chance in any of the red states that Obama might contest, either. But in her favor is the fact that, while her appeal to Independents is limited, she’d be far likelier to run stronger against McCain in Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Stark Ravings , Barack Obama, Elections and Voting, Politics,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY STEVEN STARK
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   MAPPING OUT THE NEW YEAR'S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE  |  December 29, 2010
    MAPPING OUT THE NEW YEAR'S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
  •   DEMOCRATS AGAINST OBAMA  |  November 03, 2010
    Now that the midterm wipeout has concluded, analysts are already sizing up the GOP challengers to a weakened Barack Obama. Not only that: some Democratic party elders are considering the once-unthinkable scenario of a debilitating challenge to Barack Obama from inside his party.
  •   THE INDEPENDENT HERD  |  October 06, 2010
    The big news in this election cycle is the rise of the Tea Party. Fair enough. But passing under the radar is an accompanying development that could have even more far-reaching consequences — the rise of an emboldened third force in our politics.
  •   THE AMERICAN IDOL PARTY  |  September 23, 2010
    Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell might not turn out to be good candidates, but they make great television.
  •   HAS OBAMA PEAKED? YES, HE HAS  |  November 12, 2009
    To listen to some pundits, Barack Obama's public image began taking a serious beating when the off-year election returns came in a week ago. Or maybe it was the undeserved Nobel Prize, his approach to the war in Afghanistan, or when he revved up his pursuit of national health-care reform.

 See all articles by: STEVEN STARK