Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, Stupid!

Sometimes, when you read about Sen. Hillary Clinton's strength among working class, elderly women and Latinos, you think there is no way she can fail to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Then, the New York Times ran a story by Jim Dwyer yesterday, showing how, in state after state, Clinton has won the preponderant share of Catholic votes, and that impression can only be strengthened.

The only thing, though, is that Sen. Barack Obama continues to win more primaries and, especially caucuses. Now, Obama has much better financial resources, and is trumping Clinton with heavier advertising in most of the contested states. And when both Clinton and Obama appeared back to back at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Richmond, Va. last night, after Obama had swept the day's primaries in Washington state and Lousiana and caucuses in Nebraska and the Virgin Islands,, Obama as usual gave a much more stirring speech and was much better received by the audience. Virginia has a primary Tuesday, and Obama seems comfortably in the lead there and in the District of Columbia and Maryland, which vote the same day.

Still, we have to keep our eyes on the prize, and the prize, more than ever, is coming in the Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4, and the Pennsylvania primary April 22.

Clinton, on the face ot it, would seem to have the advantage in all three of those states. Ohio and Pennsylvania are meat-and-potatoes type places, with huge numbers of working people now impacted by a deteriorating economy. Texas has a very high proportion of Latino voters, even higher than California's, where Clinton swept the Latino vote about two to one in last week's primary.

Unless Obama can break into these states, it is hard to see how the 796 super delegates -- officeholders and the Democratic elite not committed by the primaries or caucuses -- can logically deny Clinton the nomination. It wouldn't seem fair or smell good.

But if Obama wins, say, two of these three states, it would likewise not smell good if the super delegates denied him the nomination.

The super delegates, it seems to me, will go with the flow, regardless of convention machinations by the sometimes all-too-clever Clintons.

So, it seemingly depends on the Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania results, and Obama's work is cut out for him. He can pour in both money and time, it is certainly true that, as Frank Rich points out in the New York Times this morning, Clinton has looked flat in many of her recent appearances. But I suspect that unless Obama manages to widen his message and broaden his appeal, Clinton may prevail.

Steve Lopez has a column in the L.A. Times this morning detailing just how solid many Latinos remain for Clinton. on the basis largely of her experience and their memories of the first Clinton administration. Although it is true that Obama managed to cut into the Latino vote to a somewhat greater extent in Arizona, where he got 41%, he had the support of the popular governor, Janet Napolitano there, and it is hard, at this point, seeing Obama doing as well as 41% of the Latino vote in Texas, where he has fewer endorsers, and the Kennedys are liable to be even less persuasive than they proved in California.

Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania do not have the large black populations that have helped put Obama over the top in the Deep South states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana, and all three of the big states have larger Catholic populations.

So, putting it this way, I'm not too optimistic. I believe Obama is a far better candidate than Clinton, more inspirational, and, based on both his professional record and the way he has organized his campaign, more able. And I think a stench of some corruption hangs around the Clintons. But still the demographics are a heavy obstacle for Obama.

Another factor is that Mrs. Clinton seems to have toned down Bill Clinton to a large extent. He has not been shooting off, making racial remarks as he did at the time of the South Carolina primary in January, and he is much less in the limelight, appearing in places like Maine and Louisiana where press coverage is less than it is in the most heavily contested states. Somebody may have given him a sedative, or, who knows, a girl.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken, at least you're honest in your open support for Obama -- unlike many of your former colleagues at the Times. The latest example is ''Clinton, sliding, orders a change.'' When Peter Nicholas or another LAT reporter does a hit piece on Clinton, they interview Bill Carrick, who knocks her or her campaign. He's ID'd as a democratic consultant who's ''unaligned in the 2008 race.'' But even other news organizations, including the NYT, have reported he's an Obama supporter. The Letters to the Editor section is another example. For months, there's far more negative letters against Clinton and praising Obama than pro-Clinton. Yet the state voted for Clinton by 10 points. Obama should have to report the LAT coverage of this campaign as an in-kind campaign contribution.

2/11/2008 10:27 PM  

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