Monday, January 28, 2008

Obama in the general

Reader nrglaw left a long and thoughtful comment on an earlier post about Barack Obama's prospects for the general election. So thoughtful is the reader's post, mes amis, that your blogstress has granted it this thread of its own, as well as a respectful, if less than thorough, refutation. From nrglaw:

There was a lot of focus on one statistic leading up to the SC primary, namely that Black Democrats represented 52% of the state's democrats. That statistic seems have gotten forgotten since the Obama victory. Its clearly still very relevant, however.

I understand that Obama won 80% (my son says 82) of black democratic voters, which would account for 40% out of the total of 55% he polled. In the 18-29 year old group, he took 49 -- a push at best. Overall, he polled only 25% of the white vote. Apparently, the Latino vote was not very significant, because it isn't even mentioned in any of the MSM coverage of the results. This is a group where Hillary has done well.

So I have two points. First, the racial demographic in SC is unusual -- other than the District of Columbia (at 60%), only two states have higher black populations by percentage -- MS and LA. The largest state to come close to the SC percentage is MD. Generally, other states don't even come close. Of these demographics, presidential victories are not made. I am not echoing Bill Clinton's Jesse Jackson remark, but these are simple numbers that suggest that the SC racial demographic is much more different from other states than most folks realize. The numbers spell problems for Obama in the General Election if he is not pulling much better from white voters overall, even he is taking 50-60% of the non-black 18-29 year old group.

Four examples make the point more clearly: in CA, pulling 80% of the total statewide black population would only add 5.6% to Obama's vote total, assuming equal turnout across the board; in NY, it adds 12.1%; in Ohio, 8%; and in MI, 11.2%. This is miles away from the 40% figure in SC.

My second point is only that the SC news will really not have much meaning until the FL primary, because there is a very good chance that Obama will suffer the same kind of crushing defeat there that he administered to Hillary in SC. A big defeat in FL (which is what the polls are predicting) will likely overshadow a big win in SC.

I am skeptical that he will get much of a pop in FL from his win in SC.
Much to ponder here, indeed. But your cybertrix offers these obervations:

* Florida - If Obama gets trounced there, it will be largely because, at the request of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), he is not campaigning there. Hillary Clinton made that same agreement with the DNC, but she appears to have broken it.

* Remember Iowa - Our reader seems to be basing her or his argument on the notion that the South Carolina results are the only results that matter, and that they really don't matter in terms of any future trend, because, unlike that in most future nomination contests or the general election, the electorate was largely African-American. Yet, Obama won Iowa handily, an all-white state. He came close in New Hampshire, another virtually all-white state. White people *will* vote for Obama. He's more than just "the black candidate," no matter how hard Bill Clinton tries to paint him that way.

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1 comment:

nrglaw said...

First, thanks for putting my post up. I'm enjoying my fifteen minutes of fame.

Concerning Florida, my view is a little skewed because I am a Michigan Democrat. There is a real feeling here of having been disenfranchised by the DNC's draconian response to the MDP's failure to listen to their warnings. This punished the voters for the stupidity of the state party.

I agree that rules is rules. On the other hand, any campaigning by Hillary in FL has been pretty minimal and Obama's people on the ground have also been doing some campaigning in the absence of their candidate in the state. This amount of campaigning by either candidate is not, I don't think, going to be much of a factor in how the candidates do today. Adam Nagourney in the NYT said yesterday that "most of all, the [Florida] results will offer a peculiarly unfiltered glimpse of an electorate: An election that will be cast without a crush of television advertisements, appeals and attacks pitched to the particular politics of this state and get-out-the-vote operations." Look at the vote as a sort of huge poll then. From that perspective the demographic argument still holds to the extent of showing Obama's baseline of support in a big, important and culturally diverse state. A poor performance may not be dismissed as a non-story. We'll see.

The polls in several other large states coming up tend to support this point. In New York, Obama trails by an average of 22.9%; in NJ, the average shortfall is 18% as of a week ago; and in CA, he trails by 12%. These are all Super Tuesday states, so the impact he can have by personal appearances in each state is going to be limited. I'm suggesting that he is going to be running with the demographic wind in his face in all these races.

On Iowa, its a caucus state where the candidates were able to do the sort of retail campaigning that particularly benefits Obama. Not much predictive value for big state primaries on Super Tuesday.

I take your point on NH, but again the question is whether wholesale campaigning can overcome the sort of demographic problem that Obama appears to me to have.