We congratulate Saguaro’s Barack Obama on wrapping up the Democratic nomination for President. Assuming all goes to plan, he will be the nation’s first African-American major party nominee for President. [Various folks have commented on the fact that only Hillary Clinton upon losing could give an “unconcession speech“. If she can’t give an acceptance speech, she won’t accept reality sums up Maureen Dowd.]
In choosing a vice presidential running mate, we hope that Barack will find someone other than Hillary Clinton who can help to reunify the Democratic base of working collar Americans and older Americans. Choosing Hillary only shackles Barack to the scorched earth politics of the past as we witnessed in great quantity from her during the primary season. Moreover, as we often write about in this column, trust is an extremely valuable commodity and hard to repair once breached. And with Hillary as his Vice President, President Barack Obama could scarcely take a business trip without fearing a palace coup during his departure. Whether one’s grist is Shakespearean tragedies or the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, it’s hard to build an effective team around fratricide.
An interesting post of Gallup, shows a sudden break in their polling towards Barack Obama in the last several weeks.
Obama now holds a 15% percentage point lead over Hillary Clinton overall, and more interestingly, given all the previous reports that the deviseness was causing an ever increasing number of Hillary supporters to indicate that they would not support Obama if he were the nominee. While they don’t ask that exact question, they do show that among almost every demographic (other than women over age 50+ where Hillary clings to a narrow majority), a majority of likely Democrats in every demographic that they looked at support Obama.
I trust that Obama’s focusing on his differences with McCain is reminding lots of Democrats of the fact that they agree far more with Obama and his policies than with McCain and has thus started to help unify the Democrats.
Matt Bai mentioned our research on diversity and social capital in his “What’s the Real Racial Divide?” article in this weekend’s New York Times Sunday Magazine section, 3/16/08. Bai talks about how our research on racial diversity might explain why white rural voters are more comfortable supporting a transracial candidate like Barack Obama, since increased diversity in a community is associated with less inter-racial trust. (Bai notes that strangely whites in more rural, more homogeneously white parts of the U.S. have been more willing to support Obama than whites in more diverse, more urban communities.)
See “What’s The Real Racial Divide?” See Robert Putnam’s original diversity research, including his paper “E Pluribus Unum” here.
My colleague Bob Putnam and I have written about the new cohorts that Barack Obama is so effectively bringing into politics (see Putnam op-ed and my blog posts here and here). We agree that the upsurge in youth civic participation is a dramatic and important new civic “bud”, but one that needs to be nurtured to grow and become more permanent.
Andrew Sullivan enters the chorus with his piece for the Atlantic entitled “The Clinton Rules”, predicting that if Clinton’s old-school negative, mudslinging campaign beats out Barack’s politics of hope of engagement, a whole cohort of Americans being drawn back into the political process by Barack is likely to run for the exits and not look back.
You can read Andrew Sullivan’s piece here.
There were clearly shades of New Hampshire in the election results last night of Texas and Ohio. In NH, Texas, and Ohio, Barack closed large double digit leads of Hillary that had existed for weeks or months, but in all three cases, Barack came up short of Hillary in the final count. And due to the better spin control operations of Hillary’s campaign than Barack’s, they were able to spin this as a win for Hillary. In film-making, it makes all the difference when you begin rolling the camera and Hillary’s campaign successfully convinced the press that the film should start with her in a neck-and-neck race with Barack in Texas and Ohio that she successfully defended, rather than focusing on the fact that over the last week, hundreds of thousands of voters in Texas and Ohio abandoned her campaign for Barack’s.
Barack was clearly hurt by some last minute gaffes like the private statements of a senior economic adviser to the Obama campaign (Austan Goolsbee) which were later shared in a memo to Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. that they shouldn’t take seriously Barack’s anti-NAFTA rhetoric on the campaign trail in Ohio, and the fact that the Obama campaign was then less than forthcoming with the facts after this memo from the economic adviser was disclosed. Exit polls showed that late-deciding voters tilted toward Hillary, perhaps because of this or her negative campaigning on Barack. [There is even one recent allegation by a DailyKos blogger that Hillary’s campaign darkened the hue of Obama in their Texas advertising to make him look more black, analogous to what TIME magazine did on its cover to make O.J. Simpson look more black. If true, it’s a new low in the Clinton campaign scare tactics that seem to be dropping in ethical standards as they get more desperate. How long until another Willie Horton ad?]
On Youth Turnout: it’s worth noting that both Texas and Ohio evinced the continued surge in youth turnout (under age 30) that we have witnessed in other primaries. Youth turnout in Texas nearly tripled, going from 6% in 2000 to 17% in 2008; and youth under 30 in 2008 made up 15% of all votes cast as compared with 9% in 2000. In Ohio, youth under 30 made up 15% of voter turnout, up from 11% in 2000; turnout of youth under age 30 rose from 15% in 2000 to 25% in 2008. See my earlier post here and last night’s youth turnout here (Texas) and here (Ohio). This increased youth turnout is also of a piece with my colleague Robert Putnam’s recent Op-Ed on superdelegates and a 9-11 Generation.
A persuasive Op-Ed by my colleague Robert D. Putnam appeared in Sunday’s Boston Globe entitled, “The Rebirth of American Civic Life.”
Putnam highlights the amazing political birth of a “9-11 Generation” since September 11th, reversing a 35 year decline in political engagement of young adults. He sees this pent-up interest in politics as dry kindling that Barack Obama ignited through the content of his message, his age, and his extraordinary ability to connect. Youth turnout has soared in primaries across the country (as I’ve chronicled earlier) and youth activists are at the heart of his organizers.
Putnam notes that the democrat superdelegates, if they overturn the will of the democratic majority and vote for Hillary Clinton, threaten to squelch this incipient youth political movement and teach them that politics are for suckers, since the meaningful results are all negotiated in back rooms. This would not only cost the democratic party in the long-term, but could extinguish one of the most encouraging civic developments of the past several decades.
You can read the full article here.
TIME magazine’s cover story (“The Year of the Youth Vote”, Jan. 31, 2008) describes how Obama’s candidacy has been buoyed by the strength his support among under 30-year olds. This youth movement, what the article calls “Barack the Vote” propelled his victories in Iowa and South Carolina and strong finishes in Nevada and NH. Barack won Iowa among those under age 25 by a 4:1 margin. In New Hampshire, he won the youth vote 3 to 1; in Nevada, his youth totals doubled Hillary’s and in Michigan he got some 50,000 “Uncommitted” protest votes by youth under 30 since Hillary was the only name listed on the ballot.
Author David Von Drehle describes how this is ushering in a youthquake of increased voter turnout. “While enthusiastic Democrats of all ages produced a 90% increase in turnout for the first caucuses, the number of young voters was up half again as much: 135%….The youngest slice — the under-25 set, typically among the most elusive voters in all of politics — gave Obama a net gain of some 17,000 votes. He won by just under 20,000. The excitement that created — a “tidal wave,” in the words of Bill Clinton — nearly drowned the hopes of the former President’s wife. But Hillary Clinton answered with her own organizational prowess, whipping up huge numbers of working-class, female and older Democrats.”
Polling by TIME supported the attraction of youth to both politics and Obama. “Nearly three-quarters of the [TIME survey] respondents said they feel the country is headed down the wrong track, with majorities expressing worries about jobs, affordable health care and the war in Iraq. Their interest in the election exceeds their interest in celebrity news or sports — 7 of 10 said they are paying attention to the race. Obama is the only candidate in either party who is viewed favorably by a majority of young people, and he has half again as much support as his nearest competitor, Democrat or Republican.” The poll showed that 72% of 18-29 year olds are paying attention to the campaign, way above the 13% and 42% who were paying attention in 2000 and 2004.
And the article talked about how Obama courted the youth vote starting in Iowa: Barack in Iowa treated high schoolers like VIPs, meeting with them in small backstage sessions after local appearances. [Iowans can vote in the Caucuses at age 17 if they will be 18 by the general election.]
One shocker in the story was that 52% of voters found Hillary Clinton inspirational (are they watching the same programmed candidate as me?), only a shade behind Obama’s 53% and far surpassing any of the Republican candidates.
The article claims (although without much support) that Facebook is having more of an influence in 2008 than Meetup had in 2004 (with the Howard Dean campaign). It is true that Facebook has larger market share and more frequent page views, and offers the advantage that it is generally physically rooted at universities, making it stronger than social networks that are less grounded in face-to-face relationships. But it is a stretch to jump from more frequent page views and easier tools to refresh content to greater political impact without better data to support this.
Read the article here.