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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Obama Shows Red State Strength

Today on my early morning flight to Houston I reflected on the most significant theme of last night’s virtual national primary. As I have again thought through last night on my flight my analysis remains similar to what I stated late in the evening on AM 1460 in Jacksonville (around 11:30 pm ET) when I mentioned that Obama’s rural strength in the interior west and southwest was to me remarkable. The media this morning as I can surmise from limited viewing at the airport seems to have some basic themes: Clinton wins California, McCain wins big and Huckabee wins in the South. But to me the story of the night and in fact the story of this primary/caucus season may be the growing strength of Barack Obama among rural white voters outside the South and Northeast.

The returns from Massachusetts and New Jersey did not surprise me. Despite the frequent pontificating of elites from the Northeast racial and ethnic voting (The election of Duvall Patrick excepted) seems to be prevalent in what is allegedly the most liberal region of the nation than anywhere else. Polls that showed New Jersey (a state I consider to have among the most racially polarized electorates and a state where racial code words have often been used to defeat Democratic candidates) close, I rightly believed were faulty. In the South, the trend of rural white voters away from Obama that we observed in Florida continued in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Alabama but seemed to recede in Georgia and Tennessee.

But the big story is the West and the Rocky Mountain states. Even though Nevada was won by Senator Clinton, Raymon Day, Congressman Charlie Bennett’s former Chief of Staff noted that rural whites had preferred Obama to Clinton. That trend intensified last night. Lily white states (and moderately conservative even among Democrats), Idaho, North Dakota, Alaska and Utah gave Obama huge margins over Clinton. In fact, Idaho delivered the largest winning percentage of the primary/caucus season for any candidate. Idaho’s population is about 1% African-American. Colorado and Minnesota two states with a progressive bent (particularly Minnesota) which the Democrats MUST carry in November to win the Presidency were won by very wide margins by Senator Obama. Minnesota is a state with a liberal tradition and a tradition of racial tolerance best exemplified by Hubert H. Humphrey one of the greatest champions of Civil Rights in modern American political history. However, Minnesota too is a very white state with a very religious (Lutheran) electorate. Much like Utah which is 89% Mormon and 95% white, Minnesota has a dominant religion that is not prevalent in many other parts of the nation. Utah itself gave Obama a wide margin in its primary, and like Nevada where many of the rural white voters are Mormons, Senator Obama’s success there speaks well to the tolerance of a religion many fundamental Christian voters are intolerant towards.

Senator Hillary Clinton’s victories yesterday were almost exclusively in what are referred to as “Blue” states and “Purple” states where the party insiders and establishment control the political process. Obama’s victories were largely in Red and Purple states. This speaks well to Obama’s electability and ability to be competitive in places the Democrats must win and also to Senator Clinton’s limited appeal beyond the Democratic base. This is a consideration Democrats must ponder going forward. Senator Clinton’s negatives are sky high nationally and as I observed last night on Jacksonville’s AM 1460, I do not recall (since 1984 when I’ve began following the primaries closely) a Presidential candidate with such negatives during a primary season either being nominated by his/her party nor being elected President. It’s time Democrats considered this and moved towards Obama in masse, and threw off the stench of the Clinton years in addition to the continued lock activists and party insiders have on the nominating process.

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I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.