Sunday, May 25, 2008

Texeira on Obama: Yes he can

Ruy Texeira, co-author of The Emerging Democratic Majority (2002) and of America’s Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters (2000) provides essential perspective to those spooked by Hillary Clinton's "Bill, he cannot win" whispers about Barack Obama. From John Harwood in the NYT political blog The Caucus:
Mrs. Clinton’s claim that she is best positioned to win the “hard-working Americans, white Americans” has become the linchpin of her argument that she is more electable than Mr. Obama.

But Mr. Teixeira, who is not backing either candidate, does not buy that argument. He dismisses intraparty contests as “pretty poor evidence” of whether Mr. Obama, as the Democratic nominee, could attract the blue-collar support he would need against Senator John McCain the presumed Republican nominee.

And how much blue-collar support would Mr. Obama need? Not a majority, said Mr. Teixeira. Though blue-collar Democrats once represented a centerpiece of the New Deal coalition, they have shrunk as a proportion of the information age-economy and as a proportion of the Democratic base.

Al Gore lost working-class white voters by 17 percentage points in 2000, even while winning the national popular vote. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts lost them by 23 points in 2004, while running within three points of President Bush over all. Mr. Teixeira suggests that Mr. Obama can win the presidency if he comes within 10 to 12 percentage points of Mr. McCain with these voters, as Democratic candidates for the House did in the 2006 midterm election.

In recent national polls, that is exactly what Mr. Obama is doing. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Mr. Obama trailing by 12 percentage points with working-class whites; a poll by Quinnipiac University showed him trailing by seven points. In each survey, Mr. Obama led over all by seven points.

Clinton's wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia have prompted a long second look at Obama's prospects in the general. News reports have proliferated focusing on voters, from the coal mines of Kentucky to the leisure villages of Florida, who say outright or signal indirectly that they will not vote for a black man. There's no question that we're in uncharted territory. But it helps to have a 'hard target number' for the most recalcitrant group from someone as versed in electoral demographics as Ruy Texeira.

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