Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Unholy union may be neccessary

The New York Times notes two trends related to organizational vote in the Pennsylvania primary.

9:39 p.m. | Signs, Signs, Signs: Check out the picture of the Clinton rally on our site. What jumps out is how many union signs are there. We noticed this at Senatr Clinton’s rally late Monday night at the Palestra. The unions _ AFSCME, the American Federation of Teachers among them _ have stood by her. This may be good for the TV backdrop but it emphasizes her institutional support, not a rising up of the grassroots.

In fact, among white union members with no college education, she is winning almost three-quarters of the vote. That’s significant.

While it is one thing to have unaffiliated workers voting en masse for one particular candidate, it's another when unions power one to victory. Unions are core Democrats, but have, in past, turned Republican (known as Reagan Democrats).

Two possibilities prevail:

By holding in the contest, Clinton is unintentionally working to drive Reagan Democrats back into the Red fold. The bitter rhetoric of her campaign, her tagging of Obama as an elite, may well turn unioner attitudes toward Obama sour if (or when) he takes the nomination. This would be potentially disastrous for the Democrats. One should note that during his 2000 primary bid, John McCain chased
the same Reagan Democrat votes that are fueling Clinton's survival. Bitter attitudes plus a friendly GOP message could collapse the grandstand beneath Obama, who has proven appeal in traditional red states but needs the confidence of traditional Democrats in order to pursue and capitalize those Red state votes in November. Betting on a turn in Mississippi seems foolish if Pennsylvania goes Republican.

Obama has shot his candidacy in the foot with the god and gun loving comments. If, as some critics have suggested, Obama's rhetoric is truly empty, then perhaps this was the sign; or, perhaps his oftly-cited "authentic" tone may have turned around on him. Even Obama believers will have to concede that the comments made him look like a pretty marginalized candidate: one who speaks largely to a class of urban idealists who, by a long stretch, do not form a majority in America. Insulting the pride, lifestyle and worldview of any group of people is a sure path to eliciting a powerfully negative emotional reaction. Obama dropped a seed of defeat with that comment, and these results may be sign that it has begun to sprout. An irrational, emotional turn against Obama would seal his fate in November.

In the frame of either understanding, the best solution is for Hillary to quit the race as soon as possible and genuinely work with Obama to sway the unions, and blue-collar Democrats, into his favour. Obama's message could be reshaped to keep traditional democrats in the fold, especially after two Bush Republican terms and with so few policy differences between the candidates. Hillary, in contrast, has proven throughout the campaign to be too polarizing a figure to reach out to independents and new Democrats, a quality needed against McCain's independent appeal. Obama still has the best electablility formula, with age and voice that suit a desire for change far more than the 70-some-year-old McCain, but that equation wains with each Hillary attack or chance for ill-informed misspeak without proper coaching.


I'm not sure the 9 point margin really lends favour to either perspective i discussed. There seemed to be particular regional issues for Obama from what I'm reading, and the issues of spending and ground organization will have played a large factor. Mr. Obama clearly has the money, and evidently not the machine -- the opposite can be said for Ms. Clinton. Those factors aside, another interesting factor arose: voters who named the economy as their top issue in exit polls voted strongly (56 to 44 per cent) in favour of Clinton. Considering Obama lost Pittsburgh and almost all of the rest of rural Penn., I'd say he needs to bring forth, or at least passionately express an economic plan before Indiana to have a hope of scoring a decisive win there. His straight talk has fallen on deaf ears in manufacturing America.

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