Obama's Base Strategy
by Todd Beeton, Tue Jul 15, 2008 at 10:27:48 AM EDT
Yesterday I wrote that I suspected that Barack Obama was losing left-leaning independents by sounding more and more like a Republican, but as I look at the latest Quinnipiac poll, which shows Obama with a 9 point lead, I wonder if I'm missing the point of Obama's strategy here. We're all tempted to look at political maneuvering on a left-right continuum, hence the knee-jerk "move to the center" meme, and now that Obama's reiterating his commitment to ending the war, we're tempted to say, phew, OK, he's not abandoning us. But maybe, just maybe it's not about us (and by "us" I mean "the left.")
Barack Obama built a coalition in the primary based on demographics rather than ideology. Sure he had a virtual monopoly on the progressive activist left but it wasn't because he was running as a liberal, rather he'd coalesced the demographic groups that largely make up the progressive movement: young, educated, upwardly mobile, urban...
So now I look at Quinnipiac's analysis of the results of its poll and it hits me, Obama's strategy isn't about playing to a liberal base versus a conservative base or some mushy middle in between, rather he's more concerned with consolidating the demographic bases he knows he can win this election with, namely women, African-Americans and younger voters. It's notable that Obama is beating John McCain by 9 points nationally without majorities of independents, men or white voters.
With commanding leads among women and young voters and near unanimous support from black voters, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has a 50 - 41 percent lead over Arizona Sen. John McCain, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll of likely voters released today.
Independent voters split 44 - 44 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Sen. McCain has a slight 47 - 44 percent edge among men voters and a larger 49 - 42 percent lead among white voters.
But black voters back Sen. Obama 94 - 1 percent, while women support him 55 - 36 percent. Obama leads 63 - 31 percent among voters 18 to 34 years old and 48 - 44 percent among voters 35 to 54, while voters over 55 split with 45 percent for McCain and 44 percent for Obama.
Interestingly, Quinnipiac continues to look at its own results through the typical CW prism:
"As is usually the case, the outcome probably will be decided in the middle, among the independent voters, who are evenly split at this point."
This is the same sort of conventional wisdom that causes candidates to feel like they have to run to this so-called "middle" but what the results actually show to me is that independents this year could actually be irrelevant since Obama can win the election in a rout without winning a majority of them.
I'm largely thinking out loud here so I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Is Barack Obama running a post-ideological general election campaign while the rest of us still see it through a left/middle/right lens? When we complain about his "running to the center" are we missing the point entirely or am I simply seeing things through rose-colored glasses (although I've never had a great deal of patience for Obama apologists)?