Wednesday, February 20, 2008

February 20, 2008

     Barack Obama broadened his appeal again in Wisconsin.  Hillary Clinton carried white women 52--47, but Obama won among white men 63--34 and won all age groups except for voters sixty-five and older.  He won among self-described Democrats and independents, carried liberals and moderate/conservatives, carried those with and those without a college degree, those who made more than $ 50,000 a year and those who made less.  It may be time for words like "Obamamentum" and "Obandwagon."
     The question is, can Clinton turn this around, and it's not easy to answer.  Her people talk about how she'll do well with working class Ohioans (Ohio and Texas, two big states, vote on March 4th), but Obama carried those working class voters in Wisconsin.  Clinton people talk about prominent Democrats in Texas who support her, but  endorsements often don't matter much.  Momentum--there we go again--does.
     Front-runners have come unglued before:  Edmund Muskie in the Democratic primaries in 1972, for example.  But he started losing after TV cameras caught an emotional outburst--he choked up, broke down, whatever--while denouncing the publisher of a New Hampshire newspaper.  The images were devastating.  Maybe presidents can cry nowadays--I don't think Clinton's tearful moment hurt her, in fact, it probably made her seem more human, more sympathetic--but Muskie's tears back then did him in.  "I was for him,"  I remember a cab driver saying, "until he sat down in the snow and cried."  He, in fact, was standing up, but so what?
     With Wisconsin and Hawaii, Obama has now won ten straight.  I don't remember a front-runner losing after a streak like that.  Walter Mondale and Gary Hart went down to the wire in 1984, Ronald Reagan and President Gerald Ford in 1976, but none of them ever won ten in a row.
     The Economist magazine may have it right this week.  The cover showed Obama and the caption read, "But can he deliver?"   That may be the net question.  I don't know if we'll ever learn how he'd do as president, but as the Democratic nominee?  I think we'll find out.


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