May 07, 2008

Candidate Strategies after North Carolina and Indiana

After the American Century

The pre-election predictions I posted on Monday were so accurate that you can go back and read it now as a report of what happened. Obama did win North Carolina by a wide margin, and he did make it quite close in Indiana. Each did well where I predicted they would. The results can be read in several ways.

1. Obama's lead in delegates has increased again, because North Carolina has more of them to give him, and he won it by more than 14 points. He will likely get close to the same number of delegates as Hillary in Indiana. On the whole, he has come out of the election better than many expected after all the media hype about Rev. Wright.

2. Hillary will stay in the race, she announced, even though the New York Times reports that her campaign is broke again. Since there is a ceiling on how much any individual can give a candidate, she will need to find some new donors. This is not easy for her now.

3. While the results in the two states differ, the pattern is the same. Black voters are 90% for Obama. He also wins all the large urban areas, often by margins of 20-30%. But Hillary wins by equal margins in rural areas. She attracts poor whites, the less educated. old people, pensioners, and women. Barack continues to win decisively among the most support from the young, the educated, and those who make higher incomes. It's McDonalds vs. Starbucks.

What does this mean for the immediate future - the West Virginia primary? It will likely be a strong win for Hillary on May 13. Look at the counties that are most like West Virginia in rural North Carolina. She won them by huge margins. The same is true for the Ohio counties just across the Ohio River from West Virginia. There are few Black people in Appalachia, where plantation slavery never existed, and it is not exactly a highly educated state either. I once spent some days in its back country riding around in a jeep with a vet, Doc Weiner. He was very popular up i the hills and hollows as he made his rounds, mostly to treat dogs and horses. I heard several people ask him if he would treat their children as well. (He would not. ) Doc Weiner told me that often a man did not call a physician if one of the (usually many) children got sick, but he always called his office if a hunting dog fell ill. Admittedly this was years ago, and possibly the Internet and globalization has transformed the people I saw then, but I doubt it. These are mountain people in a poor state. This is not Obama-land.

So expect Hillary to proclaim herself the underdog, battling against tremendous odds. She has been comparing herself to Rocky Balboa of late. Expect her to keep on talking about her bogus plan for tax-relief on gasoline (see my earlier blog on this). Expect her to trumpet her poverty - shucks, she's down on her luck just like those mountaineers - and to keep painting Obama (poor family, single mother) as an elitist who is out of touch with the ordinary people like herself. It is astonishing to see how she has managed to bury her own elite education at Wellsley and Yale, not to mention her personal fortune.

What will Obama do? He probably will not campaign too hard in West Virginia, but spend time wooing the super-delegates, make a major speech attacking John McCain, and focus on the two primaries on May 20. As usual, he has been better at raising money and more disciplined in using it than Hillary, so he can afford to go all out for the primaries in Kentucky and Oregon. In short, his best strategy is probably to campaign in West Virginia just enough to pin Hillary down, spending money she does not have, while making sure he wins in the following week. It is not over yet, her chances are dwindling, but anything can happen in American politics.