What should we make of last night's two primaries?
Here are my thoughts:
1. Barack Obama has all but sewn up the nomination. All that remains now is for the remaining super delegates to put him over the top. Hillary Clinton's math simply doesn't add up -- she'd like to count Michigan and Florida in ways that giver her huge vote totals, while excluding caucus states won by Obama.
2. Race has played a significant role in the last few contests. That 20% of voters in WV and KY would admit that race played a factor in their votes for Clinton suggests that the numbers were much higher. This reminds us that racism is still a problem in this nation, and especially in places like this. As David Gergen said last night on CNN, Hillary probably needs to come out and say that if you're voting for me because you don't like blacks, then I'd rather not have your vote.
3. The huge wins by Clinton were fed by Obama's decision to not contest either state. My sense is that two things happened. Some voters chose to vote against him because they felt ignored. Others chose Hillary because they knew here and didn't no him.
4. The Oregon win, and his playing things close with Oregon's blue collar whites (I saw that he'd gotten about 47% of them), suggests that the issue is more an Appalachian thing than a white blue collar thing.
5. Gender has played a role here. Obama played Clinton to a draw among white women in Oregon (and they made up about 58% of the electorate), but Clinton continues to draw well among women, especially older women. Why is that? It's for the same reason that African Americans are flocking to Obama -- this is historic. Hillary Clinton is the first woman to effectively break through the glass ceiling. Many women, especially older women, don't want to let this dream die. That's understandable. Some may feel that Obama stepped in front of Hillary and may feel upset. All that being said, when November comes I doubt that most of these women will vote for McCain. On the issues that matter to women, Obama is much closer to Clinton than is John McCain and the GOP. Had Appalachia not been an issue for Obama, I think that Kathleen Sebelius would have been his running mate. He may have to go in another direction this time.
6. Looking at the electoral map. As they say with stocks and mutual funds, past performance is no indicator of future performance. I think that this may play true in this electoral cycle. Hillary has made her case about WV and KY being key swing states. Obama has demonstrated that he has had difficulty there. But, he has also shown great strength in other developing swing states. The Mountain West is up for grabs. Obama could do quite well in places like Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and even Montana. He should take California, Washington, and Oregon. In fact, he stands to do quite well west of the Mississippi. He could also take some southern states -- North Carolina and Virginia seem ripe. He should do well in New England, take NY, and with the help of people like Ed Rendel take Pennsylvania. Ohio can be turned and Michigan will be closely contested. Wisconsin and Minnesota look prime for him. What he must do is peel off states that Republicans have done well in lately, but which are in the process of changing demographically.
7. The VP choice may be very important. Indeed, he may want to start recruiting a cabinet team before November --especially State and Defense. If voters know that these important posts will be in trusted hands and they believe that Obama will listen to these voices, that could help undermine any McCain angles.
8. Finally, as Howard Dean said on Meet the Press several weeks back, the key to November is the person who comes in second place. If Bill and Hillary will go to places like KY and WV, Ohio and PA, and say to voters there -- we know Barack Obama. Yes we fought tooth and nail to get the nomination, but we know he'll be a great President, and if you trusted us then, trust us now and vote for Barack. He could turn some of these states with their help.
So, here we go!