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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Clinton Wins Big, Wins Little, But In Any Event Wins

Hillary Clinton accomplished exactly what she needed to accomplish yesterday, winning the popular primary vote in Ohio and Texas (plus Rhode Island), breaking Barack Obama’s winning streak, beating the expectations as of about a week ago, and re-exposing the weaknesses in Obama’s voter appeal that the post-Super Tuesday contests seemed to have repaired.
But in the ultimate measurement, pledged delegates, HRC will probably wind up with a pretty small net haul of around 15. In part that’s because Obama seems to be narrowly winning the strange Texas Caucuses that convened after the polls closed last night (the results will take a couple of days to finish trickling in), which will determine one-third of the state’s pledged delegate total. It should be noted, however, that she did make some progress in reducing Obama’s overall popular vote lead for the entire nominating process,which could become an important psychological factor in determining superdelegate support. And the TX and OH wins might well slow or stop the drift of superdelegate support towards Obama that’s been evident in the last few weeks.
Finallly, March 4 showed she could beat Obama in large, expensive primary states where he’s outspending her heavily.
The exit polls for OH and TX showed HRC posting her usual big wins among white women, self-identified Democrats, and less-educated and lower-income voters. But she made improvements elsewhere, especially in Ohio, where she won white men by 19 points, and ran even with Obama among voters with some college education, and those earning over $100,000. In both the big states, she reduced Obama’s lead among independents to single digits. And in TX, she got the two-to-one win among Latinos she needed, along with a big turnout.
Age continued to be the sharpest differentiator of candidate support; in OH, Obama won 70% of the youngest cohort, those under 25, while Clinton won 72% of those over 65.
Flipping all this around, Obama’s clearly got some problems with white working-class voters that lose him primaries in states where his margins among younger and highly-educated voters, including independents, aren’t overwhelming and African-American voters make up less than 20% of the Democratic electorate. If PA shows the same patterns next month, there will be some seriously worried talk among Democrats about his ability to win midwestern industrial states in November.
The other source of concern for the Obama campaign is the already-heavy media belief that he “can’t take a punch”–that negative campaining gave HRC the boost she obviously got from late-deciding voters.
We’ll see what happens next, but it’s certainly beginning to look like the contest will go past the primaries and caucuses and be determined by such factors as the Florida/Michigan issue and superdelegates.
In the meantime, I recommend Chris Bowers’ take on the delegate situation after yesterday, and John Judis’ analysis of the March 4 exit polls.

2 comments on “Clinton Wins Big, Wins Little, But In Any Event Wins

  1. edkilgore on

    I’ve always been skeptical about “tactical voting” theories, which typically are based more on anecdote than actual evidence.
    And in OH and TX, there’s not much evidence that Republicans “crossed over” to help HRC. In OH, self-identified GOPers split evenly between HRC and Obama, in a state that HRC won by ten points. And in TX, Obama won Republicans by one point.
    Sure, you have to wonder if some of those “indies” and even “Democrats” in open primary states are actually Republicans in disguise. But absent some pretty serious and pushy public opinion research, we’ll never know. As for Rush, you have to wonder if his instruction to vote for HRC would override his decades of attacks on her.
    I’m glad you raised this issue, since it will keep coming up now that GOPers know their nominee. But I doubt it will matter, and I doubt Republicans “know” which Democratic lever to pull to help McCain, assuming they even favor him to begin with.
    Ed Kilgore

  2. Jim Arkedis on

    Ed, has anyone done an analysis of Hillary’s support amongst Republican voters in Texas and Ohio?
    My guess would be that Obama’s lead in independents was eroded by McCain’s supporters who fear an Obama-McCain match-up, so they voted for Hillary.
    It’s probably fairly difficult to get granularity on those numbers because I’d guess that Republicans are loathe to admit their true motivations to pollsters. As anecdotal evidence, The Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted a life-long Republican couple as voting for Hillary because they (and I’m paraphrasing) “just didn’t think Obama had the foreign policy experience.”
    Life-long Republicans voting in a Democratic primary for a candidate viscerally hated by the Right? When that’s their candidate’s strong-suit?
    I smell a rat.


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