Nine in a row. Every primary and caucus since Super Tuesday 2 weeks ago. The Barack Obama campaign juggernaut rolled into frigid Wisconsin and emerged with another double digit win under its belt, leaving Hillary Clinton to ponder the question of what she can possibly do to slow down Obama’s momentum and get back in the race.
In those two weeks, Obama has won contests in every region of the country. More importantly, he has been slowly whittling away at Hillary Clinton’s support among her core demographic groups until we see today that Clinton’s big lead two weeks ago among women, Hispanics, middle class, and self-identified Democratic voters has disappeared and Obama has either caught or surpassed her in support among those groups.
Clinton holds on to the lead among those with only a high school education and those over age 55. But exit polls in Wisconsin tell a now familiar story. Clinton barely won the women’s vote 51-48 but got only 32% of the male vote.
Super Delegates who are interested in winning a general election probably shudder at the thought of a Democratic candidate who does so poorly among men.
Obama won among those who make less than $50,000 a year by a strong 53-46. This was another key voter group that Hillary was counting on to carry her to victory. In fact, as he did in all three contests last Tuesday, Obama won handily among every income bracket from those who make $15-30,000 to those who take home more than $100,000.
He also won the white vote 52-46 and won 90% of the black vote.
There isn’t a ray of sunshine for the Hillary camp to be found in either the Gallup Poll that sampled national Democratic attitudes or the Wisconsin exit polls. The entire party seems to be moving toward the senator from Illinois and try as she might, she has yet to hit upon a strategy that can stop the bleeding.
It seems that every contest now proves a curious axiom; once a state or states have the national stage to themselves and people start concentrating on the race, Hillary’s numbers plummet and Obama’s numbers soar. This proved true last week in Virginia where Clinton was in striking distance in some polls only to lose by a near 3-1 margin on primary day. Wisconsin was the same story, nearly same result.
There are two long weeks until what is becoming known as “Mini-Super Tuesday” occurs with primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island. At the moment, Clinton is given a good chance to win in Rhode Island and no chance in Vermont.
But Clinton has staked virtually all on Texas and Ohio where she currently enjoys a lead in the polls. Will it last?
It might be interesting to look at results in Wisconsin and extrapolate how the Ohio race might shape up. That’s because Wisconsin is something of a mirror image of Ohio — the state in miniature if you will.
There is a large white working class vote in Wisconsin that in some of the early contests would have been very supportive of Hillary Clinton. Obama won that group going away. And like Ohio, Wisconsin has a smaller African American vote, a college educated electorate, a large rural segment, and a strong union presence. These factors would seem to set Wisconsin up as Hillary country.
But in a harbinger of what might be in store for Clinton in Ohio, Obama won the union vote, the college educated, and the mostly white industrial areas in the southern and northeastern part of the state. For instance, in Brown County where the city of Green Bay is located, Obama is winning big 56-43. And in Sheboygan, another bellwether county, Obama is winning handily 53-46. These are counties set up for Hillary Clinton to win going away given past support she has received. And they are counties that have their echo in Ohio where cities like Dayton, Akron, and Youngstown would be vital to the Clinton campaign to build up enough a majority so that she can compete with Obama’s edge in the larger cities of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.
Perhaps the fundamental hurdle Hillary Clinton must overcome if she is to start competing again is the fact that the Democratic electorate has soundly rejected by a 2-1 margin her argument of “experience” and embraced Obama’s mantra of “change.” By a 54-22, Wisconsin voters believed that “the ability to bring about change” was more important than “experience.” In Virginia, it was 57-21 for change. In Maryland, it was 56-22. Obama also continues to win on the three most important issues Democrats say are facing the country; the economy, Iraq, and health care.
It appears at this point that Clinton has virtually nothing to say nor can she demonstrate any quality that could start bringing some of these core constituencies home. And if the axiom I mentioned above holds true, watch over the next two weeks as Obama begins to catch and then surpass Hillary Clinton in Ohio and Texas. A double loss in those states would almost certainly bring loud and persistent calls from leading Democrats for her to exit the race.
Whether she would heed those calls is another story.
Rick Moran blogs at Right Wing Nut House.