Update: Text in the middle of this diary has been edited for clarity
Barack Obama, "the presumptive nominee" of the Democratic Party, must feel lousy today after losing Pennsylvania by more than 200,000 votes yesterday, despite waging an aggressive and negative campaign against Hillary Clinton, in which he outspent her 3 to 1. It's not hard to imagine how much greater Clinton's win would have been had advertising budgets been equalized.
Democratic strategists and experts, such as George Stephanopoulos, have said that a win of 5 points or less by Clinton in Pennsylvania would have effectively secured the nomination for Obama. But he was unable to crack Clinton's winning coalition of union households, women, white people, seniors, blue-collar workers, Catholics, and Jews. As proven in other states, Hispanics bolster her nationwide coalition even more.
The results across Pennsylvania were impressive for Senator Clinton:
According to exit polls, Hillary won voters most concerned about the economy by 16 points (58-42) and union households by 18 points (59-41). She won those with incomes between 100K and 150K by 20 points (60-40); white women by 32 points (66-34) and Catholics by 38 points (69-31). She won those who decided on the last day (59-41), the last three days (58-42) and the last week (54-46). Hillary Clinton press release.
Additionally, Clinton once again demonstrated her appeal in rural and suburban America, winning nearly all counties across the state. And her succcess in Pittsburgh serves as a reminder that she too can carry urban areas.
As expected, Obama held on firmly to his coalition of African Americans and the wealthy (over $150,000 annual income).
But the AP asks why Obama "can't close the deal."
The sobering reality is that Obama's coalition is too weak and shallow to win a major cross-section of core Democrats from shore to shore. Losses in one or two major states would hardly be noteworthy, but accumulated losses over the past 3-and-a-half months starkly reveal a problem for this "frontrunner." California, Texas, Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, to name a few, offer classic Democratic demographics . Surely the super delegates must wonder whether Obama, the most successful presidential fundraiser in history, can assemble a winning Democratic coalition in any of these electorally rich states.
Also, questions about Obama's character, experience, judgment, and ability to empathize with common folk have increasingly plagued him. Red flags are popping up on a daily basis:
The company he keeps, as described by conservative commentator Andrew McCarthy is an inconvenient truth. Obama's ambition and charisma conceal his thin senatorial records, explains Todd Spivak. His veracity about an assortment of matters, from meeting Nadhmi Auchi to what he actually knew about Rev. Wright's bitter rhetoric, is also problematic. And Obama's arrogance, most vividly displayed recently when he "flipped off" Hillary Clinton doesn't help his image with average Americans either. Along the same lines, today David Axelrod audaciously insulted white working class voters by declaring them irrelevant to a Democratic victory. That dismissive attitude, along with patriotism gaffes, likely explains why 32% of Democratic voters in Pennsylvania told a pollster that they would never vote for Barack Obama. In the words of another writer:
If he becomes the Democratic Party's nominee for President, Sen. Barack Obama will lose the general election for this reason: When the smiles and platitudes are set aside, Obama's campaign and the philosophy of his cadre amount to one big put-down of America. Source.
One no longer needs to imagine how the GOP and 527's will attack Obama where he's most vulnerable. The North Carolina GOP has already unveiled a television ad featuring Rev. Wright's damning of America, as reported today by Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic. Although the ad is short and crude, the devastating potential of similar assaults is indisputable. You can view it here.
Obama's narrow delegate lead can be largely attributed to an effective strategy in caucus states (for which his campaign deserves credit) in addition to a hypnotized mass media. However, the media is slowing waking up, as ABC News demonstrated in last week's debate. And legitimate questions have now been raised about whether caucuses accurately reflect the peoples' will (as illustrated most clearly in Texas, where Clinton won the popular vote by more than 100,000 but "lost" the caucuses) and whether caucus irregularities have created an unlevel playing field.
And speaking of the will of the people, Hillary Clinton now boasts a lead of 123,358 in the popular vote when results from Florida and Michigan primaries are included, according to Real Clear Politics.
Super delegates probably hoped to avoid the serious task at hand. But because Obama can't close the deal on his own, their votes will now be determinative. And while General Election polls should be evaluated cautiously at this early date -- indicators of Obama's electability problems are evident. For example, in Massachusetts, where Obama enjoys the support of Senators Kerry and Kennedy as well as Gov. Patrick, there is disturbing news for Sen. Obama, as reported by The Boston Herald:
While Hillary Clinton soundly beats McCain in Massachusetts in the new SurveyUSA poll, 56 percent to 41 percent, the Obama/McCain number is 48 percent to 46 percent, well within the margin of error.
A Democrat struggling here in 2008? An unpopular war, a collapsing housing market and $4 gas - if Britney Spears were running as a Democrat, she'd pull at least 50 percent of the Massachusetts vote.
John McCain poses another threat to Obama, which is the potential to attract Hispanics, a voting bloc that can make or break a general election candidate. Clinton, on the other hand, has already established her good will among Latinos.
Obama is inclined to continuously blame Hillary for his election problems. But each candidate must be accountable for his or her weaknesses. And that is one reason I admire Hillary Clinton. Not only has she adapted her campaign strategy and structure when necessary, Clinton doesn't take the onslaught of assaults personally. In fact, I'd guess that her grit and determination in the face of adversity have won over more voters. Obama, on the other hand, is an incessant whiner, which of course is an unappealing quality in a friend, colleague, or spouse. But in a general election candidate for President, petulance is a sure recipe for disaster.
All in all, the super delegates have many factors to consider. At this stage, they should have a fairly complete picture of each candidate's advantages and disadvantages for the General Election, including their judgment, credentials, and demographic coalitions. It would not be surprising, therefore, if super delegates begin to break towards Clinton as the primary season finally winds down.Cross posted at texasdarlin.wordpress.com and hillarysbloggers.com