On One Hand

February 5, 2008

Obama wins “Purple” states, Clinton takes Dem strongholds

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 10:55 pm
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In the ever-tightening race for the Democratic nomination, strong trends emerged on Super Tuesday. Hillary won traditional Democratic strongholds, after New York, Massachusetts, California and New Jersey tilted towards the Clinton establishment. She won the states where Democrats are packed into big urban areas and Republicans are a rarity. Democrats in coastal states usually see their own party take state offices, and enjoy comfortable margins when sending their delegates to the electoral college.

Obama surged drastically ahead in Colorado, Minnesota, Utah, Kansas, and Idaho, where Democrats live among those whose views are not their own. Democrats in mountain states have suffered through Republican governors and Republican senators, and in general elections look to the coasts to offer up Democratic majorities that keep the country from swinging to the far Right.

Those of us living in states like Colorado and Idaho listen to so much constant Clinton-bashing from Republican neighbors that it’s hard to imagine Hillary could take on a Republican in the general election. As an extention of that thought, even if Hillary did win, Western Democrats would hear nothing but hate for their president from most of the people around them for at least four years.

It’s not that Democrats in conservative states are more moderate and like Obama because they agree with Republicans who say the Clintons are evil. As a resident of Boulder, Colorado – probably one of the most liberal towns in the country where Obama beat Clinton in the caucus by a 2-to-1 margin – I can confidently attest that voters aren’t bashing Clinton as a crazy liberal. Nor do they buy the arguments that she is a curmudgeonly establishment candidate who represents the worst of politics. Instead, they’re worried about Hillary Clinton because they know that there is no way in hell that she would take their Republican-leaning state.

She may still win an election, because this is an unusual cycle that favors Democrats more than any other in recent history. Republicans are honing in on John McCain, who they think is a moderate, but who is more hawkish and pro-war than even President Bush. And since conservatives hate McCain so much, he would have to continue his pander to them through the general election, which most candidates can give up on after the primary in search of a broader appeal.

But if Hillary Clinton does become president, it will be by razor-thin margins. Meanwhile, the huge congressional gains that Democrats saw in “purple” Mountain and Western states after the polarizing Bush administration came to power would likely revert to the Republicans, and Democrats may see their congressional majorities dwindle. That might be thinking ahead too far when a Hillary Clinton presidency is untested and much is still up in the air, but it is exactly the way that Obama states view the country.

Californians just don’t understand the pitfalls of a polarizing president the way that Democrats in GOP-heavy states know it. Californians don’t seem to have the same desire for a candidate who appeals to moderates and bends the national narative through friendly, inclusive rhetoric.

Regardless of what they’re saying right now in the thick of the battle of a century, Democrats like both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Either one of these political heavyweights would be historic and transformative candidates, and both have strikingly similar policies that would steer the country away from Bush-era politics. Most Democrats think the Hillary bashing they hear from conservatives is unfounded and overblown. But they hear it nonetheless, and would rather just bypass it for Barack Obama, to breathe a sigh of releif knowing that their candidate will not only win the election but could do so with a landslide.



  1. I can’t see, after looking at last night’s results, Obama actually winning against John McCain in a general election. He’s doing very well in solidly Democratic demographics, but very poorly among moderate voters and failing miserably among the two Demographics that have made presidents these last 20 years. I do see him winning the nomination at this rate, though.

    Compare the scenarios:

    Both candidates win Pennsylvania easily.

    Clinton wins with security moms in Ohio, has a 50/50 shot in Florida, and continues to build Dem Latino support for Dems in the Southwest.

    Obama loses security moms to McCain in Ohio. He is crushed in Florida, where Democrats will show no enthusiasm for him and toss-up voters go for McCain. He then shifts or divides Latino support in the Southwest. On top of that, inroads that Democrats have made against the Republican stranglehold on the south are turned back sharply.

    I know people are thinking that he’s winning the southern states in a landslide, but that’s because those states are so racially polarized that he’s winning all the black vote, and they’re all registered Democratic. His appeal to white Republicans there isn’t likely to be any better than his appeal to white Democrats.

    And then there are the midwest caucus states. Well, Obama has shown a huge gift for winning caucuses, which require getting large groups of excited volunteers into a room. He’s quite good at that. But there are no caucuses in a general election, and he’s generally losing to Clinton in states with private voting booths.

    Also, remember that Obama’s independent and Republican support is a bit overblown. Clinton has pulled as much as 40% of her primary support from independents, as well. George W. Bush won 11% of Democratic voters in 2004, and John Kerry won 6% of Republicans. There’s just always crossover. His is larger than Clinton and McCain’s, yes, but not by too much.

    I still think that Obama would do very, very well in the midwest, and in Colorado, which has been shifting Democratic these last two cycles. But he’ll also lose a few of the smaller states that were competitive. He’ll also lose Ohio and Florida handily–and until the next census, those are the states that decide the presidency.

    Comment by spoofilms — February 6, 2008 @ 8:00 pm | Reply

    • Lets get real, either Democratic candidate has a chance of winning the general election. Democrats have more than twice as much money as Republicans right now and every political indicator in the country has them winning. If you analyze hypothetical polls state by state, Obama is losing to McCain by a very small margin and Clinton is losing to McCain by a larger margin, but I think all of those will tighten over the next few months; Obama wasn’t so well known when they were taken, and McCain has dropped in popularity since then. Plus, money is going to count, and Democrats have much more of it.

      Meanwhile, John McCain would be crippled in the general election against Obama, because he will be forced to appeal to Conservatives who don’t like either candidate. He will be waging a two-fronted war trying to prove he is both a conservative (to conservatives) and a moderate (to independents), and it is possible that a third-party candidate will emerge to split the Evangelical vote.

      That is less likely to happen with a Clinton nomination. Republicans will not allow their vote to be split for someone they hate so much. Anne Coulter and Michelle Malkin said they would vote for Hillary if McCain was their nominee – but their fans are not going to be so rabidly opposed to John McCain. They will still be rabidly opposed to Hillary, though.

      Democrats cannot count on the South with either Clinton or Obama. Just get those states out of your mind; Democrats will lose them either way; every single poll has Hillary’s popularity far lower than her husband’s ever was there. Obama said he could win in the South by turning out the black vote, but I don’t believe it. Clinton supporters may say that white southerners are more likely to vote for a white candidate, but they are probably as sexist as they are racist and would vote Republican either way.

      Meanwhile, if Democrats want to take Washington and Oregon (two usually-reliable states that have strong anti-Hillary attitudes), Minnesota, Iowa, or Missouri, they ought to pick Obama.

      Similarly, if they want to contend in states where the margins would be closer – Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada, they ought to pick Obama. (McCain would probably take Arizona, though any other Republican would see it turn Democratic with Obama).

      Even if Democrats lose most of those states, it forces the already-overspent Republicans to advertise and campaign in those markets, which means Democrats are more likely to win other close states like Florida, Ohio, and Virginia.

      Hispanics are voting for Hillary now, but I don’t think Republicans will get any of the hispanic vote in November. The history of racial politics indicates that it’s always hard for African-American candidates to get hispanic votes or vice versa, but Obama is the most immigration-friendly candidate in the field and most Hispanic votes that tilted for Bush in 2000 and 2004 will return to the Democrats in 2008; consider how politicized the immigration debate has become. Hispanics were around four percent of the electorate in 2004 and will be something like 6 percent in 2008 – hardly a huge jump – but it does make a difference in Arizona.

      Most of the Democrats I know didn’t vote in the Colorado primary. Why? Because, though they are reliable Democrats, they preferred not to be associated with a party and registered unaffiliated anyway. Obama wins big time among those kind of voters, who are unrepresented in many primaries.

      I caucused the other day and I can tell you that it didn’t matter what kind of “passion” Obama supporters had, everyone was decided before they went in. The speeches would not have convinced anyone of anything; they reiterated the talking points of either campaign but with many more “ums” and stutters. There was one woman saying “Clinton is really great because she has experience and is my hero” and a man saying both candidates are awesome but he slightly prefers Obama. That’s who was designated to speak for either candidate. There was really no pressure on anyone. But when it came time for everyone to raise our hands, Obama was favored 2-to-1, though the math made the 5 delegates split more evenly at 3-2.

      Comment by ononehand — February 6, 2008 @ 8:36 pm | Reply

      • I think it’s rather absurd to say that Latinos, who have a long history of voting Republican, won’t vote for the one Republican who’s stood up for them these past few years.

        I have to disagree here:

        “…Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada, they ought to pick Obama.” First off, Colorado hardly belongs in the list of Southwestern states. Of the remaining three, Obama lost two and the other is a draw. And that’s among Democrats. There are a lot of Latino independents and Republicans down there (remember, Latinos voted Republican until fairly recently, and still do sometimes).

        Washington will go Dem either way, though Oregon is in play. Obama would win Iowa, I think, but he’d lose Missouri decisively. You’ve also left out Arkansas and the other “north of the south” states Obama just isn’t performing in.

        But none of that really matters in determining the president. The math just is not there. Ohio is the prize, or for Dems, Florida could also offset it. And McCain wins there.

        Saying that most Democrats you know didn’t vote in the Colorado primary also doesn’t really help the case. The “divisive” argument also just really doesn’t seem to hold as much water as it did before 2004.

        Comment by spoofilms — February 6, 2008 @ 9:01 pm

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