Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Is It a Race?

Part of me still says, no, Hillary Clinton will win. She is still ahead in the overall delegate count, 1,148 to Obama's 1,121 (as of February 11). This is because of the super delegates, those delegates chosen not by the voters in the primaries but the party officials (so the Democratic Party could continue to impose its control over the nomination process), in which she's ahead (as of February 11, 224 to 135). What this means is the leadership of the party wants Hillary Clinton. This is why the delegate selection permits second place winners in many states, as long as they receive a certain percentage or win a given district, can still receive delegates, even though they lost the state. Thus it was the reason why Hillary Clinton received the second largest number of delegates in Iowa, even though she finished third place in the polls.

Nevertheless, it cannot be excluded that Obama could win the nomination, especially if he keeps sweeping the post-Super Tuesday states and can pull out two of the three remaining big primaries (Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania). The problem is that Senator Clinton is up by 10-25 points in all three states. For Obama to win, to gain momentum and convince more super delegates to support him, he has to pull out two of those big states.

More worrisome still, for Obama, he has lost several states after being ahead in the polls. In New Hampshire, he was ahead by about 10-12 points in the polls, but lost by 3 percent. In California, Obama was ahead by 1-2 percent in the polls, but lost the primary by almost 10 percent. People are lying to the pollsters. It is obvious that there are many white Democrats saying that they are voting for Obama, but pulling the lever, pushing the paper, or tapping the button for Hillary Clinton.

The quandary of race is that if it is an issue for white Democrats to now vote for Barack Obama, what do you think is going to happen during the general election when Senator Obama has to try to appeal to white Republicans and independents? This is not to infuse doubts about his campaign, but it has to be on his advisers’ minds when they look at the numbers. Currently, Obama and Clinton are in a statistical deadhead in the national polls (an RCP average of 45.3% to 43.7% for Senator Clinton). Moreover, Senator Obama performs much better against Senator McCain (47.4% to 43.7% for Obama) than Senator Clinton (who loses to McCain 46.6% to 45.4%). Based on this, and the fact Senator Clinton's negatives in those polls are much higher than Obama's, the Senator from Illinois appears to be a more viable candidate. However, once the problem of the differences in what people say and how they vote during the primaries is taken into account, one must wonder how much of a lead Obama has over McCain.

So, contrary to the Jonathan Alters, who believe we are in a new era (which to him means an Obama Presidency that appoints Republican cabinet members), commentators are willfully underestimating John McCain, while simultaneously exaggerating Barack Obama’s chances for the nomination. He may still receive the nomination, and he would certainly be preferable (at least on Iraq) than Hillary Clinton, but he is going to have difficulty overcoming a rigged nominating process that favors the party leadership's preferred candidate. Plus, whatever else may be said about McCain's age, temper, militarism, and his ideological impurity to the right-wing of his party, he is undoubtedly the most electable Republican and within the margin of error in head-to-head match ups against Hillary Clinton and competitive against Barack Obama. It says something about the state of the Republican Party that an anti-abortion, anti-gay imperialist is considered a bleeding heart because he does not want to torture potential terrorist suspects or Mexicans. It says something more about the state of white people in the US for white Democrats, who are supposed to be more tolerant, to lie about voting for a black candidate so as not to appear racist, even though Obama is by far the most electable African American for national office in the history of this country.

What the Obama campaign needs to do is figure out a way for their poll numbers to meet the ballot results. Until then, Obama's race is going to be an issue, to whites who extol his candidacy, only to vote for his white opponent within the confines of the secret ballot, and those conservatives who, if Obama receives the nomination, will no doubt try to portray him as a Wahabbist in league with the Black Panthers. This is the true test of his campaign, and these are serious barriers--his own party (whose leadership prefers Hillary Clinton), whites who are privately doubtful about voting for him, and those members of the fourth estate who blindly think he will be the inevitable candidate--and these are the same people who thought the McCain candidacy was dead several months ago.

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