Thursday, April 24, 2008
Is Pennsylvania a Microcosm of America? Tuesday's Primary Results Could Spell Big Trouble for Obama and Democrats
Are the Democrats once again ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? If the results of Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary are any indication, there could very well be an icy Autumn chill in the air come November for Sen. Barack Obama should he become the party's nominee for president.
In Obama, there is a very real danger that the party sends to the general election another George McGovern, who ultimately was viewed as the quintessential affluent, educated, urban North-Eastern uber-liberal who failed to connect with the working class. He lost the 1972 election to Richard Nixon in a landslide, with a 23.2 percentage points margin of victory in the popular vote, the 4th largest such margin in Presidential election history. McGovern, like Obama, aroused excitement among the youth vote, and ran an effective grass-roots campaign that won him the nomination. But from there he imploded, winning just one state, Massachusetts, in the general election. Many Democrats are starting to worry that Obama, against the GOP's presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain, who is perceived as a moderate independent, may face a similar fate.
And it is precisely McGovern's debacle that gave rise to the party's super-delegate system, a supposed fail-safe against sending another weak candidate to the general election even though voters may have fallen in love with him. It's naive and a mistake to think the Super D's will merely look at the current "math" in the Obama/Clinton race. Call me crazy, but I suspect as we draw closer to the convention, these party officials are going to focus more on true electability than anything else.
In Tuesday's Pennsylvania contest, Sen. Hillary Clinton won by a decisive 10% margin (ok, 9.4%, but I'm not gonna split hairs with the Obama-cans about .06%). So with an eye on November, is the Keystone State a microcosm of the rest of the U.S.? The answer is pretty scary if you (a) look at the type of voters Clinton won, and (b) believe Obama will ultimately be the Democratic nominee. Consider the following:
-Clinton won women 59-41
-Clinton won whites 63-37
-Clinton won white men 57-43
-Clinton won white women 68-32
-Clinton won age 45+ 59-41
-Clinton won moderates 60-40
-Clinton won conservatives 53-47
-Clinton won white Protestants 59-41
-Clinton won Catholics 70-30
-Clinton won Jews 62-38
-Clinton won those who attend weekly religious services 59-41
-Clinton won suburbs 59-41
-Clinton won small town/rural 63-37
-Clinton won gun owners 63-37
-Clinton won union households 59-41
-Clinton won voters who decided in last 3 days 59-41
And who did Obama win?:
-under age 45 55-45
-atheists/no religion 62-38
-never attend religious services 55-45
And among liberals they tied at 50.
It's hard to analyze the above numbers and not hear the words "President McCain" if Obama's the nominee. Like McGovern, Obama cannot and will not win by merely snagging the black, affluent, educated, urban, atheist, and youth votes. Do you remember those loathsome Birkenstock-wearing, granola-crunching, Volvo-driving fill-in-the blank stereotype ads in 2004 against Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry? Imagine them mixed with clips of the Rev. Wright; BitterGate's guns and God blunder; Obama's lack of experience; the patriotism "question;" the flag-pin issue; Michelle's "pride;" etc. It's not a pretty picture.
Should we start saying, as Pennsylvania goes, so goes the country? The fact is, no Democrat has won the presidency without winning Pennsylvania since 1948. And no candidate has won the Democratic nomination without winning Pennsylvania since 1972. And with good reason. Voters in key battleground states like Pennsylvania and also Ohio mirror those voters across America; the white working class Democratic base that is a must-win for any candidate seeking not just the party's nomination, but the bigger prize in November. These voters, many of whom also comprise the so-called Reagan Democrats that swung not just to Reagan in the 80's but also President George Bush in two elections, are exactly the type of voter who is currently rejecting Obama.
It's astounding to me that we're actually worrying about the Democrats' chances in November to actually win this thing. The country is mired in war, the economy is in recession and gas prices are $4/gallon. For Pete's sake, this should be a friggin' cakewalk. But once again, Democrats just can't help themselves. Once again ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory....