Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Potomac Primary goes to Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Potomac (or Chesapeake) Primary -- which Creature live-blogged (with some remarks from me) -- has turned out to be yet another sweep for Obama. Let's go straight to our table (updated after each contest):

-- Louisiana (2/9): CHECK (57-36 -- 21 points)
-- Nebraska (2/9): CHECK (68-32 -- 36 points)
-- Washington (2/9): CHECK (68-31 -- 37 points)
-- Virgin Islands (2/9): CHECK (90-8 -- 82 points)
-- Maine (2/10): CHECK (59-40 -- 19 points)
-- Maryland (2/12): CHECK (60-37 -- 23 points)
-- Virginia (2/12): CHECK (64-35 -- 29 points)
-- D.C. (2/12): CHECK (75-24 -- 51 points)
-- Hawaii (2/19)
-- Wisconsin (2/19)

Look at Obama's margins of victory in Maryland (with 75 percent reporting), Virginia, and D.C. The votes weren't even close, and the networks were able to call them right away. D.C. was a given, of course, as was Maryland, but Virginia by 29 points? Clinton campaigned there, and it's not really a Clinton-unfriendly state. Indeed, some commentators expected a much closer vote, even a possible Clinton victory.

Of course, the state was trending decidedly to Obama, and Obama's win was not exactly unexpected, but think back a few weeks. It wasn't so long ago that a Clinton win in Virginia was expected, or at least that the vote would be close. And go back to October of last year, when a WaPo poll put Clinton up by 24 points over Obama, 49 to 25. The most recent polls had Obama up by about 20 points. And yet he won by 29 points -- another exceptional performance.

And there was this key development: "Obama maintained his coalition of young voters, the well-educated, and African-Americans. More importantly, he added to it by eating into the durable coalition that has been Clinton's bulwark against Obama's momentum. Obama won among all income groups, including the lower-income voters he's had trouble attracting even in states he won. The only voting bloc Clinton held onto was white women." In other words, Obama's victories were not only decisive, they were significant in terms of the broadening of Obama's support at Clinton's expense. Until now, we (or rather the myopic news media) have been talking about these groups for Obama and those groups for Clinton, as if the race were more or less fixed along these lines of group identity. Yesterday's results suggest that support from these groups is fluid and that Obama may be attracting some of Clinton's core support.

(And still no word from Clinton on her recent losses, no words of congratulation for Obama, not even in passing. I understand that her focus is on Ohio and Texas, her new eggs-in-one-basket "strategy," but her dismissive refusal even to acknowledge what happened over the weekend and on Tuesday is disrespectful both to Obama and to the voters in those states. She can't even take the time to thank the voters for coming out, to thank her own supporters, to pay common political courtesy to her opponent, a fellow Democrat?)

The race in Wisconsin, the next key contest, is tighter. One poll has Obama up by just 4 points, while another has him up by 11. (A week ago, this poll had him up by 3 points.) Nonetheless, this is significant. Clinton had a double-digit lead as late as early-December of last year. Hawaii should be a much easier contest for Obama. (Note that Wisconsin's will be an open primary. Both Republicans and independents are allowed to vote. This could benefit Obama.)

To be fair, March 4 could prove to be a challange for Obama, with votes in Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island. The latest poll puts Clinton up by 17 points in Ohio, Texas is heavily Hispanic (and Clinton is winning the Hispanic vote), and Clinton has done well in the Northeast. But of course there will be two weeks of campaigning in those states after the votes next Tuesday in Hawaii and Wisconsin, and wins in those states would certainly put Obama in a good position to compete on March 4.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There is still Wisconsin to think about, and it could be close, as well as three resounding victories to add to Obama's amazing post-Super Tuesday run.

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