17 May 2008

Foggy Mountain Breakdown

One bit of Conventional Wisdom that has cemented during this primary season is that Barack Obama fares poorly among white people who didn't go to college and/or don't make much money. Last week's 41-point drubbing in West Virginia was the ultimate illustration of this fact -- until this week's upcoming Kentucky primary, I expect.

But does it matter? Yes, says ABC's Rick Klein (and Hillary Clinton). After all, these folks make up a critical part of the traditional backbone of the Democratic party. A nominee that didn't have their support would be like ... well, like a Republican that made evangelicals, gun-lovers, and fiscal conservatives nervous. In truth, it's hard to imagine a road to the White House for a Democrat who can't win Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Michigan.

On the other hand, Today's Times op-ed page makes the case (complete with color-coded map) that West Virginians don't hold the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania, for the simple reason that though Appalachia is pretty consistently Democratic and anti-Obama, the region is divided across 12 states, of which all but Pennsylvania and New York went for Bush in 2004. In other words, blue-collar workers are loyal Democrats, but they don't swing the swing states. And, to the extent that Obama's support flags among this population, he should be able to more than make up those losses by picking up new voters in states like Virginia, which Kerry lost by 262,000, and Georgia, which has 500,000 eligible African-American voters who are not registered -- yet.

I would add to this a point that may be obvious: the CW says that poorer whites won't vote for Obama, but the only demonstrated fact is that they won't vote for Obama over Hillary Clinton. That does not mean they will stay home in November, or vote for John McCain, if Obama is the nominee.

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