The Blog

After Super Tuesday

What separates Clinton and Obama is not simply personality and tone, it's the fact that there are warring demographics that represent each candidacy.
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Now that Super Tuesday voters have made their wishes known, this is where we stand. On the Republican side, it's no surprise that Arizona Sen. John McCain is a lot closer today to securing the Republican nomination. He had significant victories in many Super Tuesday states.

For Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, Super Tuesday provided enough victory to build rationales for continuing their campaigns, but they are now well behind McCain in delegate count and momentum. Their campaigns may now be less about winning the nomination and more about making statements, and perhaps setting the stage for their political futures.

It's hard to picture a scenario to stop McCain, however, there are significant shadows lurking around the corner: Conservatives voted heavily for his two opponents. In fact, exit polls show four in 10 conservatives voted for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, as did four in 10 for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. McCain needs to consolidate the Republican conservative base. While he offers the Republicans a unique opportunity to grab the center of the political spectrum in the general election -- moderates and independents -- his real problem is obtaining support among that core of conservatives who neither like him nor trust him. His position on Iraq and national security should be of great appeal to conservatives, as should his biography of being a former prisoner of war. But, what is very troubling to them is that he has not been a Republican stalwart, he has little or no economic plan, and he is moderate on immigration.

On the other hand, he offers Republicans a very unique chance to neutralize the issue of illegal immigration and its negative impact on the all-important Hispanic vote. McCain alone can help stem the tide of declining Hispanic support for Republicans.

There is also the opportunity for Republican conservatives to unite behind McCain and take advantage of Democratic disunity. That's a choice that conservatives have to make for themselves.

Democrats have a few very important choices too. Will this be 1932 and a chance to elect an historic candidate with an historic mission for change? That could be either the first woman or the first African American. Also, Democrats have an opportunity to turn this into a new New Deal, or a similar 1980 Reagan moment. Each of those cases offered a package for change with a new kind of vision. I have said elsewhere that Franklin Roosevelt did not have a New Deal until after his campaign. That came after he read the will of the moment, and that came after the election.

On the other hand, will Democrat race degenerate into a repeat of 1968? That year, supporters of Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, who were very opposed to the war in Vietnam, refused to warm up to party nominee Hubert Humphrey. Their lukewarm support cost Humphrey the election, and helped to elect Nixon by one point.

Now we will turn to some demographics. Each candidate has created a coalition, and they are revealed in Tuesday's exit polls.

  • For Clinton, it's older women, Hispanics, and the oldest voters.
  • For Obama, it's the very young, African Americans, liberals, and college educated voters. Obama also now gets 40% of the white male vote.

But, in order for either of the two candidates to secure the nomination, they must have greater crossover appeal. What separates these two candidates is not simply personality and tone, it's the fact that there are warring demographics that represent each candidacy. For Clinton, it's older women feeling that this is the last glass ceiling to break during their lifetime. For Obama, it's young voters and African Americans who are saying it's our turn and that the U.S. image both overseas and to its own citizens is at stake.

These conflicts represent serious rifts in the Democratic Party, and the longer it takes to heal those rifts the greater the advantage for McCain and the Republicans. In summary, lots of choices here need to be made. Will African Americans accept Clinton? Will young people vote in great numbers even if Obama is not the candidate? Will older women reject Obama? What will conservatives do?

About California: Some of you may have noticed our pre-election polling differed from the actual results. It appears that we underestimated Hispanic turnout and overestimated the importance of younger Hispanic voters. We also overestimated turnout among African-American voters. Those of you who have been following our work know that we have gotten 13 out of 17 races right this year, and so many others over the years. This does happen.