Thursday, May 08, 2008


Don't Vote 'Til You See The Whites of Their "Ayes"

Hillary Clinton makes the case that she should be the nominee because she has whitest, uh, widest appeal:

Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed Wednesday to continue her quest for the Democratic nomination, arguing she would be the stronger nominee because she appeals to a wider coalition of voters — including whites who have not supported Barack Obama in recent contests.

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.

There's a pattern alright. This is the "eggheads and African-Americans" critique that Paul Begala pushed a couple of days ago -- with vigorous pushback from Donna Brazile. Though, "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans" is a nice added touch. Obviously, Obama's base of intellectuals and blacks are either not working -- or not "hard-working."

Hillary, however, is in good company. Karl Rove essentially agrees in today's Journal:
The primary has created a deep fissure in Democratic ranks: blue collar, less affluent, less educated voters versus the white wine crowd of academics and upscale professionals (along with blacks and young people). Mr. Obama runs behind Mrs. Clinton's numbers when matched against Mr. McCain in key industrial battleground states. Less than half of Mrs. Clinton's backers in Indiana and North Carolina say they would support Mr. Obama if he were the nominee. In the most recent Fox News poll, two-and-a-half times as many Democrats break for Mr. McCain (15%) as Republicans defect to Mrs. Clinton (6%) and nearly twice as many Democrats support Mr. McCain (22%) as Republicans back Mr. Obama (13%). These "McCainocrat" defections could hurt badly.
Note, however, that Mr. Rove is smart enough not to actually use the word "white" -- except when referring to wine. Usually, the strategist is the one who is supposed to be the blunt analyst, while the candidate speaks in more subtle terms. Then again, whoever said Hillary Clinton was subtle.

Actually, none of this is too surprising. I have long had the belief that, in the back of the Clintons' mind(s), there exists the ultimate "nuclear option": They are willing to risk the Democratic Party's long monolithic grip on the black vote (by denying Obama the nomination). Indeed, they may be willing to sacrifice as much as 25 percent of the black vote with an eye toward cobbling together a new general election coalition of more working class whites -- and Latinos. As my erstwhile colleague Ryan Sager has noted, the fertile ground for Democrats right now is the Mountain West states -- Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico. Hillary and Obama split those four states -- but she has consistently done better among Latinos (that fact alone probably explains poll numbers showing her doing better than Obama against McCain in Florida).

With most of the South (including their huge numbers of "non-essential" black votes in red states) -- again, not counting Florida -- conceded to the Republicans, nominee Hillary would count on all the blue states Kerry won, plus picking up Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas and possibly Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.

Of course, she would have to get the nomination first.

Regardless, African-Americans shouldn't be too surprised at this. The latest Census numbers demonstrate that Latinos are now the largest "minority" in the country. Hillary -- as will future Democratic candidates -- is already calculating, a la Barry Goldwater, to go "hunting where the ducks are." If trading a bunch of black votes for more Latinos and downscale whites results in a victory, so be it. Besides, the thinking would go, the rest of the blacks will vote Democrat anyway (where else they gonna go?).

Cynical? Yep. Cold-blooded? Definitely. Completely insane? No, not really.

Democrats though who are confident that "this thing is over" had better think again. A candidate who -- in an on-the-record-interview making the case for why she should lead her party -- broadcasts her intent to willingly toss aside a fair segment of the most loyal voting bloc of that party does not sound like someone preparing to close up shop.

As Rove says in his WSJ piece:
Almost everything we think we know right now will be revised and even overturned during the next six months. This has been a race in which conventional wisdom has often been proven wrong. The improbable or thought-to-be impossible has happened with regularity. It has created a boom market for punditry and opinion offering, and one of the grandest possible spectacles for political junkies in decades. Hold on to your hat. It's going to be one heck of a ride through Nov. 4.

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