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June 12, 2008
Both Sides Need
Hillary’s Voters, and Both are Wrong About Them
Now that the
Democratic nominating contest is over and Hillary Clinton has officially
conceded to Barack Obama, the question on the minds of every political
junkie – at least, the one that doesn’t involve the vice presidency –
is, “What will become of the Hillary voters”?
people, including many women, many seniors, and many swing voters, cast
their vote for Sen. Clinton in the primaries. Some of the more vocal
Clinton supporters, the sorts who chanted, “Denver! Denver!” at her
withdrawal speech, are vowing either to stay home in November, or to
cross party lines and vote for John McCain.
According to a CNN
poll taken Friday, the day before Clinton’s concession, 60 percent of
Hillary voters said they would vote for Obama, while 17 percent vowed to
vote for McCain and 22 percent said they intended to not vote at all.
Obama supporters believe that these voters will, for the most part, come
home and vote for the Democratic ticket in November, regardless of
whether Hillary is on it, figuring many of those people are Democrats
and will support the candidate whose views on the issues are closest to
those of their favorite candidate.
meanwhile, are counting on bitterness over Hillary’s loss, as well as
patterns in her support consistent with the Reagan Democrat precedent,
to bring such voters back into the GOP column in the fall.
Both sides are
wrong. While Obama holds a clear advantage, Hillary voters, as a block,
are unlikely to line up almost entirely behind one candidate or the
other, but will almost certainly split between them in subgroups. And
yes, the presidency may very well hinge on how the percentages fall
among the Hillary-voting group.
Certain elements of
the Hillary coalition are likely to back Obama no matter what, including
anyone to whom abortion is important; blue-staters; African-American men
and women and those generally part of the Obama coalition who simply
considered Hillary the stronger of two strong candidates; anyone who
identifies strongly as a liberal, a Democrat or both, to the point where
voting for a Republican is out of the question; and anyone who likes
Obama less than Hillary but more than McCain. This is not to mention
anyone who is angry about Hillary losing now, but will be considerably
less angry about it five months from now.
Other elements are
likely to back McCain or stay home: Middle-of-the-road “Reagan Democrat”
voters who see more to like in what McCain has to say than Obama; most
of those who gave Clinton her huge margins in West Virginia and
Kentucky; the sort of people who post to web sites like Hillaryis44.com
and TaylorMarsh.com and say they’ll do exactly that; voters bitter that
Hillary lost who will still be angry five months from now; people who
usually vote Republican but crossed just to vote for Hillary; those who
simply like McCain more personally or feel he “shares their values,”
etc; and people who are either uncomfortable with a black candidate,
convinced Obama is a Muslim or Marxist or an “inadequate black man,”
and/or a practitioner of terrorist fist bumps along with his wife.
Many Hillary voters
fit into more than one of those categories; others fit into none; still
others fit into what seems like a pro-McCain category but will vote for
Obama, or vice versa.
Speaking of vices,
there remains the question of whether Hillary will be offered a spot on
the ticket. Whether this is a good idea for Obama remains highly
debatable. Sure, it would bring some Hillary supporters in, but would
also hurt Obama with core supporters and undercut the very idea behind
his candidacy. Some have said Hillary has “earned” a spot on the ticket,
as though the vice presidency is something that is earned in any way
other than convincing the presidential candidate. Also highly
questionable is whether die-hard Hillary backers will accept her in the
number two spot, or whether anyone votes for president based on who the
vice president is anyway.
Obama has a few
built-in advantages in the Hillary-voter contest: He’s from the same
party, has been endorsed by the candidate herself, agrees with her on
most of the issues and opens the contest with a huge lead among Hillary
supporters. But as we’ve seen in this campaign so far, very few
predictions have actually held up.
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