So I've been reading that the Sippy-Kup Kidz (those who cart around their kups of kool-aide and suck on them constantly lest the buzz fade and reality intrude) have been crowing about what a superdoublewidefantastic party organization The Precious has built, how it's cool and digital and virtual and full of lots and lots of bloggers and money. They are especially touting his new voter registration drive efforts and how this will power him to victory in the future.
All of which makes me go so where were those voters in Indiana? Pensylvania? Even in North Carolina, where he should have had a much better showing if his registration drives had been as effective as claimed? Jeralyn points out that Obama did worse in North Carolina than in Virginia. His efforts didn't make a difference for him in Ohio, Texas, Massachusetts or California, come to think of it.
The fact is that the contest this year as such, not just Obama, is bringing out a huge number of voters, and half of them are voting for Hillary. Obama is not drawing a statistically significant larger number of people to the polls and he is not increasing his margins among Hillary's constituency. They are turning out in droves to vote for her.
So what about the millions of new voters who are signing up? Evidently, they are either voting approximately equally for The Precious and for Hillary, or else they are not any larger of a group than is already voting for Hillary.
This brings up an interesting point (well, interesting to a poli sci major, anyway), which is to what degree does Obama's failure to expand his base constituency as the primaries go on indicate that he has maxed his vote? The fundamental problem with Obama's candidacy, the one he has faced from the start, is that his coalition is both compact and loyal. Its borders are sharply drawn. They are to one side of the political spectrum and thus are not likely to defect towards the other political side, though they may defect somewhat into fringe groups. In the case of AA voters, this is not a gain of potential defectors, though there would definitely be an increase in the proportion of voters. The upper and upper-middle class white vote that will stay with the Democrats are also not a gain from Republican side. There may be a marginal increase in the percentage of under 30 voters from this class, but this gain is likely to be offset by the loss of older voters who feel rejected by their party. Independents who are already to the left will tend to favor him, but those who are rightward-leaning are no longer supporting him in significant numbers. His advantage with Republican-identified swing voters is also diminishing.
What is disconcerting is the overt rejection by the Obama faction of specifically working class voters who, as Larry Bartels has documented, make up one of the most loyal voting constituencies in the Democratic camp. This is a voting block that has consistently been shoved to the side by both of the major parties when it comes to policies, and which can be won over with direct and tangible pocketbook issues. Though usually portrayed as "white" because that is the largest ethnic group in that class, the working class is increasingly made up of people from all corner of the world, Latin Americans, East and South Asians and Middle-easterners.
My argument is not that Obama would only get the number of votes in the GE that he got in the primary. Turnout is always higher in the general, though the extraordinarily high turnout in this year's primaries do not automatically translate into a comparably higher level in the general. The bulk of interested Democrats may already have turned out. For example, Kerry got 2,938,000 votes in Pennsylvania in 2004, and the primary turn out this time was 2,306,600 (I'm rounding), a difference of just over 630,000.
The difficulty is that he is stuck with a rigid and isolated base and does not appear able to expand it proportionally in any significant way. The failure to attract the vote of the majority of likely GE voters is a serious problem, and even more so when 60+% of them say they won't accept you under any circumstances. I don't think that will hold, but if even a quarter of those voters stick to their guns, that's a loss of @125,000 votes out of every million.
The Obama campaign (not just the supporters) has made clear that they regard much of the Democratic Party with contempt. This is different than beating up on your opponent, which everyone understands as part of electoral politics (LBJ and rumors of carnal relations with pigs comes to mind...), but the cardinal rule of politics is you do. Not. Diss. The. Voters. EVER. Why? Because they have what you need - votes. His voter registration drives are failing to provide him with decisive victories in the primaries which is a strong indication that those votes just aren't there for him. Claims that he somehow has this multi-million strong army of voters being held in reserve for the GE doesn't pass the sniff test. He needs them NOW, and they aren't there.
Democrats win or lose elections based on the strength of working class turn out, and the working class is literally being told to stay home. With every insult and put-down, it becomes more likely that they might just do that.
If it is only the saints marching in to the voting booths in November, we are all in for some revelations.