The White Male Vote

Earlier in the race some pundits believed the deciding factor might be whether the black female vote went to Obama or Clinton. If there was ever any question as to who would receive their votes, the race baiting tactics of the Clinton campaign sealed the deal for Obama. Now the election might come down to white males.

While there was a lot of discussion last night about the racial breakdown of the vote, the issue looks quite different now that we find that Clinton and Obama split the white male vote equally. The Clinton campaign was probably successful in keeping some whites from voting for Obama but the beneficiary of this turned out to be John Edwards, allowing him to pick up enough of the vote to accumulate some delegates and remain in the race.

In retrospect this should not come as a surprise. Male voters who can be convinced to vote along racial lines are also less likely to vote for a woman. The Clinton campaign realized at the last moment that Edwards did represent a threat and tried to prevent this with last minute robocalls:

Voice: Hello, This is the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign.
Before you vote on Saturday, you should know that John Edwards voted for permanent trade relations with China. That’s right, John Edwards voted for the bill that cost thousands of jobs. Like the ones in the textile mills he talks about so much down here.

You should also know that John Edwards made nearly a half a million dollars working for a Wall Street investment fund. A fund that’s been profiting on foreclosing on the homes of families; including 100 homes right here in South Carolina. That’s according to The State newspaper. Here in South Carolina, Edwards says he’s one of us, but up on Wall Street he was just another one of them.

Can you trust John Edwards? This call is paid for by the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign.

The problem with this tactic is that it was too little too late to have an impact. There are plenty of arguments to questions Edwards’ authenticity and progressive credentials but Edwards has been working on this act for quite a while. By now people either see through his act or are conned by it, and those who are conned by his act are not likely to have their view changed by a brief message such as this from an opposing campaign.

Edwards remains extremely unlikely to win the nomination, but this development does suggest he will continue to be able to pick up votes from those who are unwilling to vote for a black or a woman. Unfortunately for Edwards it is difficult to actively campaign for more of this type of support. There was always a subtle hint of racism and sexism in the manner that Edwards has promoted himself as the most electable of the top three candidates, but he cannot take it any further than that.

Obama also received more of the white vote than predicted, successfully keeping the story from being that Obama won along racial lines. Josh Marshall has explained why the Clinton analogy to Jesse Jackson does not hold up. The media is covering the victory as coming from all segments of society, possibly as an intentional response to the Clinton strategy. We will know better by Super Tuesday whether the Clintons have been successful in scaring enough white voters from voting for Obama to win, but at the moment it does not look like their strategy is working.

For a moment after the Iowa caucus Barack Obama was seen as a man running for president who just happened to be black. America appeared to transcend racism. Then the Clinton campaign attempted to use race in order to help Hillary compete and probably did manage to get some voters to refrain from voting for the black candidate. In doing so Clinton diminshed herself more than she hurt Obama and hopefully voters on Super Tuesday will completely reject this tactic.

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