The Elephant in the Democrats' ClosetTim Russert may be right when he said this morning that Barack Obama may have clinched the Democratic nomination last night. However, hidden in the results is the great elephant in the closet that will plague the Democrats between now and November:
Still, exit polls in both states charted a racial
divide that has become familiar in a long, historic campaign pitting a black man
against a white woman and that could weigh heavily on an Obama campaign in the
In North Carolina, an estimated one-third of all
ballots were cast by black voters, and Obama claimed support from roughly 90
percent of them. Clinton won 60 percent of the white vote. Only Democrats and
unaffiliated voters were permitted to vote in North Carolina.
In Indiana, Clinton's victory among white voters was just as wide.
These aren't just white voters that Obama is losing. If we look at the generic "white" vote, Obama loses it-but not terribly. However, if we look at the white working-class vote, Obama loses that demographic in both States by massive numbers. Furthermore, these are voters that are traditional Democrats-they are Democrats because their parents and grandparents were. If they don't think that a Democratic candidate is someone that they can identify with, they have no problem crossing the floor.
West Virginia is a classic example of this. Democratic identification in that State runs at nearly 70%-but West Virginia Democrats are a different breed than the present national party. Their loyalty to the Democratic Party was forged during the New Deal, and it is rooted in white, working-class socially conservative union households. These are the church-going, God-fearing, flag-waving, gun-toting Democrats that the national Leadership of that party wants to pretend do not exist. Current West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is a devout Catholic who is strongly opposed to abortion, gun control, is against "gay marriage," and favors voluntary prayer in public schools. His Democratic predecessor, former Congressman Bob Wise, held almost identical positions on social questions. Hillary Clinton is expected to win both West Virginia and Kentucky by at least 20 points.
In States where the working-class white vote has been a factor in the Democratic Primaries, Barack Obama has been crushed under foot politically. Blue collar whites have shown in numbers that they have no problem at all voting Republican in a General Election-it is for this reason that Barack Obama will not likely carry a single Southern State and will likely lose every plains State. Pennsylvania will be in play this year as well.
Winning the General Election is not impossible for Barack Obama-but the November geography and the reality of his poor showing among blue-collar whites will work very strongly against Obama-especially with Hillary Clinton still refusing to bow out with primaries left to fight.