Following the two primary races yesterday in Indiana and North Carolina, it's clearly the beginning of the end for Clinton's "comeback kid" primary run. She needed both states. The "solidly in the tank for Obama" media covered the races yesterday with the irrational exuberance that we've all come to expect of them.
CNN reported on their front page today that "Obama sweeps N.C.; Clinton ekes out Indiana," when in reality the percentage difference between the two races was five percentage points (Indiana: 51% to 49%, North Carolina: 56% to 42%). Considering that Obama won primarily because of upscale and black voters in NC, while Clinton dominated in the rural areas, taking 42% of the total vote, it's hard to understand how CNN could use the term "sweep." Add to that the expectation that he would potentially win both states (Indiana by his own reckoning, was the tie-breaker), and was originally supposed to win by double digit percentage in North Carolina, a lead that wound up actually only being 6%, this is hardly the showing that his campaign really expected, and well short of a sweep. That said, regardless of how the win was colored by the media, barring any additional drama, Obama is now well on his way to face McCain in the General.
While the race with Clinton is all but over at this point, it's left the Democratic party with a candidate who is badly beaten and bruised. Many Democrats are questioning the wisdom of the vote results. Many feel that while Obama has rallied Democratic primary voters, he's also irreparably damaged his candidacy in the general. Moreover, it's the divisive way that Obama won that generates concern among general election voters.
Obama, the trans-racial and post-partisan candidate, took fully 91% of the African American vote in North Carolina. His only chance of winning Indiana was by sweeping Gary, a heavily African American city. Pro-Obama pundits (are there any other kind?) were quick to explain away this clear voting along racial lines, suggesting that blacks did vote for Clinton until she offended them with a string of possibly racial comments made by her husband, as well as with some of the negative attacks made by her campaign. Back here in reality land, the true story is quite the opposite. Blacks didn't respect Obama, didn't think he could win. In fact, they even questioned his "blackness." Once the media got the word out that whites could take Obama seriously, that he could win the primary, and after getting a taste of Obamamania, African Americans all got in line behind him and started voting.
Think I am a racist for suggesting that? Fine with me. But whether or not this author is racist (a charge I'd reject; being honest about race doesn't equal being racist), doesn't change the racial nature of the votes in virtually every recent primary state. Sure, whites also voted for Obama, but the point is, how many blacks voted for Clinton? As a result of voting solidly along racial lines in the last several primary races, the black vote, in conjunction with the Wright controversy and comments made by Obama's wife, have solidified Obama in the minds of many Americans as the "Black Candidate."
In terms of primary politics, this is all fine and good. Polls suggest that at least some Democrats who supported Hillary could not bring themselves to vote for her competitor. I'm willing to take these polls with several grains of salt. I think Democrats, regardless of who they supported in the primary, will vote for the Democratic candidate mainly because they can't and won't bring themselves to vote for a so-called George Bush Republican (a label that is absurd and misapplied in McCain's case). The problem Obama has is with middle of the road swing voters.
For voters who are not registered Democrats, especially independent voters who are still undecided, watching this voting along racial lines is a major turnoff. Seeing the gyrations of the media, trying to explain away any indication of racial divide, trying to sweep any hint of controversy under the rug, stinks to high heaven. Independents are independent for a reason – they don't view themselves as part of a political faction, don't vote along racial lines, and don't drink the Obama Kool-Aid that the media is offering.
If we lay all three candidates out on a flat plane relative to their political position, McCain is on the right, but fairly close to the center. Clinton is on the left, but also fairly close to the center. Obama is on the extreme left, carrying baggage of racial division to boot. Independents who supported Clinton may indeed find more in common with McCain on many issues. Then, add in this racial dimension, his wife's comments, the Wright issue, his various "typical" and "bitter" comments about whites, and you have a formula that turns off many voters who aren't already fully invested in Obama.
Many will chastise the premise of this article, or claim that it's proof of a racist populace (or at least author). I think the truth is much more boring. I suspect that many voters, like me, simply don't care about race. So when an election becomes driven (at least in part) by race, it feels pedantic. It certainly doesn't make one feel like this is a different kind of politics. Independents, at least some of them, may just decide that they don't want any part of what has become a mob mentality in support of Obama.
Obama may still become the next President of the United States. Should McCain stumble badly, or prove to be a lackluster candidate against Obama's message for hope, it's very possible that the GOP will be in the wilderness for at least four years. However, McCain isn't someone to be underestimated. Lackluster isn't a term that usually describes him. And given the current misleading attempts to color McCain as a mere continuation of the Bush Administration, a claim easily disprovable, one wonders what the real strategy of the Left in the General is. If this is the strategy, it's not a good one.
While conventional wisdom states that McCain would prefer to run against Clinton than Obama, I have a feeling that McCain is eager to match wits with the Illinois Senator. Thanks to the damage that's been wrought as a result of this messy and divisive Democratic primary process, I like the GOP's chances.