John Kerry For Secretary Of State. Max Cleland For Secretary Of Veterans Affairs

Over the past eight years, our standing in the world has plummeted and while there are many important decisions to made in the coming days, Secretary of the Treasury for example, there are two areas where I have a touch more experience and two men I believe, strongly, are the right men for the job.

Let's start with the position and the man for which there will be more debate.

John Kerry for Secretary of State.

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Barack Obama outperforms Gore and Kerry among Protestants and evangelicals

I am currently working on a senior honors thesis about the religious right. I've seen several headlines today that say while Obama won the Catholic vote, Democrats didn't really make inroads among the evangelical community - but I disagree.  I've spent some time today looking at consortium and CBS exit polls from every presidential election since 1972, and a preliminary scan shows three very interesting findings:

  • Barack Obama received a higher share of the Protestant vote, 45%, than any other Democratic nominee since at least 1972, the earliest year for which I have data. By comparison, in 2004 Kerry received 40% of the Protestant vote and in 2000 Gore received 42%. The previous high was 43.7% for Jimmy Carter in 1976. The low is George McGovern in 1972 with 28.4%.

  • The general "Protestant" category includes the liberal mainline denominations. Unfortunately, voters have only been asked if they consider themselves white evangelical or born-again in 2008 and 2004. In '04, 23% of voters said yes, and in '08, 26%. Kerry received 21% of that vote, and Obama 24. (In 2000, voters were asked if they were part of the religious right, and only 14% said yes. The term "religious right" is likely seen as offensive, so fewer voters were willing to claim it as a label. Of those voters, 18% voted for Gore.)

  • Barack Obama outperformed both Al Gore and John Kerry in terms of church attendance. More than weekly - Gore 36%, Kerry 35, Obama 43. Weekly - Gore 40, Kerry 41, Obama 43. Monthly - Gore 51, Kerry 49, Obama 53.

I'm not going to read anything into these numbers tonight; that's what my thesis is for. But the raw data is interesting, and suggests that the Emerging Church movement (Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, etc.) may indeed be a strong ally for progressives, and that Leah Daughtry can keep on rockin'.

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When Kerry Conceded, I Listened to Obama's Speech Again

Four years ago, after watching John Kerry on TV conceding the election, I went into my room, put Barack Obama's convention speech on repeat, and wept.  I'd first watched that speech in Tampa, where friends and I spent a summer outside supermarkets and inside trailer parks registering people to vote.  From summer through to fall, we knew we were going to win.  We had an endless paper chain of hopeful justifications - another paper endorses the Democrat for the first time in this many elections; another Bush gaffe sure to drag him down; the Tin Man is beating the Scarecrow in a Zogby poll; undecideds always break for the challenger; I canvassed a man today who voted Bush-Dole-Bush be he says it's time for a change.  And that was before the exit polls started coming in.  I spent a lot of election day in Philadelphia with college classmates co-ordinating GOTV in a basement, but at one point I stumbled upon a TV somewhere just in time to see Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speculating on how John Kerry had carried his state.  By the time we were driving back to my parents' house, there was a steady stream of exit polling, sweet and plentiful like Halloween candy, and I made some snarky comment to a friend about the foolishness of cynical leftists that doubt the essentially good judgment of the American people.  Within an hour, the real results were coming in, and our beloved Florida - which we'd sworn we wouldn't let be lost again by a fraction of a percentage point - went for Bush by five points.

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The White Vote

Yesterday John Harwood reported an undertold story of this election: Barack Obama's strength among white voters relative to how Democrats usually perform.

If Tuesday's election were confined to white America, polls show, Senator Barack Obama would lose.

And yet Mr. Obama's strength across racial lines lies at the heart of his lead in the polls over Senator John McCain heading into Election Day. Remarkably, Mr. Obama, the first black major party presidential nominee, trails among whites by less than Democratic nominees normally do.

America's political parties grew decisively polarized by race after 1964, the year President Lyndon Johnson signed civil rights legislation that his Republican presidential opponent, Barry Goldwater, opposed. Since then, election pollsters estimate, Democratic nominees have averaged 39 percent of the white vote. In last week's New York Times/CBS News poll, Mr. Obama drew 44 percent support among whites -- a higher proportion than Bill Clinton captured in his general election victories.

According to exit polls, John Kerry won just 41% of the white vote four years ago.

Obama's impressive strength among white voters has been evident at the state level for some time. A couple weeks ago I posted on a Public Policy Polling report about the true root of Barack Obama's strength in the South: his appeal among white voters.

For example, in their North Carolina poll, they found that overall Obama was out-performing John Kerry by 18 points in the state. Obama's increased performance among African-American voters accounted for 5% of that; his increased support among white voters accounted for the other 13%.

The reason they found for this increase:

-Economy, Economy, Economy. Among white voters in North Carolina who list it as their top issue Obama is actually up 48-46. In Florida Obama has the same 48-46 lead with whites most concerned about the economy. In Virginia it's a 49-46 advantage. Even as Obama continues to trail by a good amount with whites overall in these states, he's winning with them on the issue foremost on voters' minds this year. There's not much doubt the economy is the main factor causing whites who voted Republican for President in 2004 to go Democratic this year. That is the single biggest factor driving his lead in the polls across the country right now.

Quinnipiac concurs. Here are the results of Quinnipiac's numbers out of PA, OH & FL:

- Florida: Obama at 47 percent to McCain's 45 percent, unchanged from October 29;
  • Ohio: Obama up 50 - 43 percent, compared to 51 - 42 percent last week;
  • Pennsylvania: Obama ahead 52 - 42 percent, compared to 53 - 41 percent last week.

Their rather remarkable conclusion:

"Sen. Obama appears headed for the best showing of any Democratic candidate among white voters in a generation, going back at least to Jimmy Carter in 1976 and perhaps even to Lyndon Johnson in 1964," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"Race has been an issue, but green, not black or white, appears to be the color that matters most. Voters overwhelmingly say the economy is the major issue that leads to their vote and they see Sen. Obama as better able to handle the nation's money problems," Brown added.

Barack Obama's outperforming even Bill Clinton among white voters is a rather dramatic irony considering conventional wisdom had it that Obama's weakness in some states among white voters vis a vis Hillary Clinton in the primary would carry over to the general. Clearly it simply hasn't.

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Hyperventilation about Pennsylvania

(Cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama)

Rasmussen has a new poll out this morning on Pennsylvania that shows the state growing tighter:

Obama 51
McCain 47

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