In Hillary and Barry, we are looking at people who have captured the imaginations of the major Democratic constituencies in new and invigorating ways. While various bloggers and pundits have used the terms “beer track” and “wine track” to sum up their respective supporters, the alignments do not break out so cleanly.
Hillary has much of the traditional Democratic blue collar core, as shown in her win in Ohio, the classic “Reagan Democrat”. The working class, the elderly, ethnic whites, Catholics, mainline Protestants, the socially disadvantaged and economically vulnerable. She has brought in enormous numbers of women voters, higher than the usual gender gap the Democrats enjoy. Finally, she is the clear favorite of Hispanics and Asians, especially south Asians. These are growing demographic groups and ones the Democrats need to consolidate as a dedicated voting bloc. This is the group that Bill and Al won. It is also composed of the voters most likely to defect to the Republicans (elderly, working class whites, Hispanics).
Barry has what I think is a totally unique combination of voting groups for the Democrats, the African American vote and the “wine track”. It is as though Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson had been merged. Usually, AA voters are found with the other core constituencies, leaving the wine track voters – upper middle and upper class, highly educated, college students, significant wage earners, in creative and technical industries, predominantly white – in the minority, able to challenge but not large enough of a block to dominate, but this time they have left their regular voting pattern to promote Barry. Just as with high female turn-out for Hillary, I think high AA turn-out for Obama needs to be seen as salutary and constructive identity voting.
The wine track group is more problematic. These are voters who are most likely to identify as “independents” rather than Democrats, and who bolt the party for third party candidates, such as Nader and Anderson. There is a mistake being made, I think, that these are somehow new voters in the system. AA voters are some of the most loyal and reliable voters in the US. Wine track voters are usually highly politically motivated, voting in higher levels than beer track Democrats, but are less likely to affiliate with the party.
The candidates are evenly balanced in terms of support, no matter what the Blogger Boyz scream about pledged delegates, with a very slight edge for Hillary’s supporters in sheer numbers. Both candidates are definitely striking the right chords with the complete range of the widely diverse groups that make up the Democratic Party.
What will the Party do?
Let’s make no mistake. At this point, the candidates can jostle, strategize, wheedle, threaten, coax and cajole, but the decision as to who will be the nominee lies in the hands of the convention voters. Neither of them can win enough delegates before the convention to win the nomination outright. The minor lead Barry enjoys with the pledged delegates today goes away the second MI and FL are acknowledged, but even with them seated Hillary cannot clinch the nomination. It comes down to super delegates reviewing the possible outcomes of the general given the one candidate or the other, and deciding which provides the party with the best electoral chance. Here are some considerations.
Jeralyn on TalkLeft posted a great analysis by William Arnone on the ten most vital states in the general election, Ten Key States Update and a Perspective on Pennsylvania. Those states are:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
Hillary has won both Ohio and Florida, and will win Florida again if there is a revote. Democrats cannot lose both Ohio and Florida and win the general election. One of those states is a must win in November. She also won Oklahoma and Tennessee, and it looks like she will win Kentucky. Hillary does well in border states where Obama does not and where Bill won last time. These parts of the country are pro-Clinton, and, yes, just the way that Barry enjoys a clear advantage with college students, Hillary enjoys a clear advantage with people who voted for Bill. This is good for the party, not bad, and an advantage Democrats are wise to exploit.
Let’s look the threats and negatives squarely in the face. Both candidates have supporters who say they will not support the other person if their own candidate is not the nominee. I should know – I’m voting for Hillary in November even if I have to write her in, and most of my female relatives intend on doing the same. Exit polls show that a larger and growing percentage of Hillary supporters say they would not be satisfied if Obama won and that they will not vote for him. Given whom her core constituency is, these voters are highly likely not only to not vote for Barry, but to actually defect and vote for McCain. These are the Reagan Democrats, after all. Though Obama supporters like to mutter about closet racists, the answer, frankly, is to be found in class – as Paul Krugman pointed out on Friday, people who are at the economic margins are not impressed with what Obama is offering, and will go with someone more familiar. Conversely, disaffected Obama supporters are more likely to vote Nader (Thanks, Ralph…) or sit out the election. What about the AA vote? The Blogger Boyz like to say that HRC’s racism has permanently alienated the AA vote. I say hogwash. There will be some who would sit out, but most are simply giving their candidate the best possible shot at the nomination. They will vote Democratic in the general. It is the really new voters to the process - women, Hispanics and college students - who are most liekly to sit out or defect in the absence of their preferred candidate.
Hillary has made it clear that she will support the party no matter what and that she wants a unified ticket for November. Barry is blustering and claiming he won’t take a VP slot (Just like he said he wasn’t running for President when campaigning for the Senate?), is refusing to say he will support the nominee regardless, and is making direct claims that his constituents won’t support Hillary. Which position is more constructive in the long run for building the party? Too much "Me no wanna do!" from a candidate, and he begins to look like a sore loser.
I can’t blame Barry for puffing up and making absolutist statements; I said yesterday he’s between a rock and a hard place and this is probably the only strategy he can run, but he is running out of time and maneuvering room. He’s going to have to agree to a revote on MI and FL, allow the delegations to be seated as-is, or else stonewall them being seated at all. The first two options will put an end to his pledged delegate lead, but will position him for a round two of negotiations. The third choice will force an incredibly ugly floor fight. None of these choices will result in a winner before the convention, and the Party will still have to decide, though a revote might make the choice easier. It is that possibility that Obama is fighting against right now.
Without Michigan and Florida being seated with full delegations and no restrictions on their pledges, Barry cannot gain a legitimate nomination. With them being seated under those terms, Hillary becomes the best general election choice for the party, having carried the largest number of battlefield and must-win states. The one outside option is that Dean and Brazile are more interested in defeating Hillary than in winning the general, and so refuse to seat the states and bully super delegates into installing Obama. To do this, they have to bet that they can get a high enough turn out in November to counterbalance defections from Hillary to McCain and those who will write in HRC rather than vote Obama. That’s a hell of a gamble. Remember, it’s not national advantage, but which candidate will do best state-by-state.
So, Dr. Dean, what’s it going to be? You put this patient into the ICU. How are you going to remedy this situation? What are you going to do to save the life of the Party?