Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama, Not Wright, Is Obama’s Worst Enemy
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Whoever on Team Obama keeps feeding into Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s seeming compulsive need to speak out on the Reverend Jeremiah Wright should get the swift boot. When Wright went on his latest public and media tear, Obama should have simply issued a statement saying this: Wright is no longer my pastor. And as I have said repeatedly, his views do not reflect mine, and then move on.

But no, Obama’s Wright compulsion drove him to deliver a defensive and apologetic so-called race speech in which Wright was the centerpiece. Next, he denounced Wright’s views in an interview. Now he holds a halting, stumbling, anguished voice press conference to denounce Wright again. Here’s the effect of all this. He’s given a slew of gossipy, media talking heads more salacious grist for the gossip and rumor mill about Wright, the church and Obama’s long term relationship with both.

He’s elevated Wright from a relatively obscure, local preacher to a nationally known polarizing figure. He’s deepened the suspicions of those who all along felt that he was a closet radical and race panderer. This hurt him with white voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and almost certainly it will hurt him in Indiana. It has pecked away at the razor thin lead he had over Clinton among Democrats, and dropped him behind McCain in the general election. (Hillary beats McCain by ten points).

He created clouds of doubt among some of his non-rabid, and non-true believer supporters that maybe it’s time to take a second look at him and his candidacy. He’s given political analysts and pundits boundless ammunition to fire the jibe that maybe he is unelectable. After all, if he bombs with blue collar, rural, and less educated white voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania who are Democrats, what chance does he have of getting a big swatch of the must win independents who fit that same vote demographic in the South, the Midwest and the West to back him in a head to head showdown with McCain? He’s gotten so bogged down with the obsessive need to slam Wright that he’s managed to self-derail his campaign from the issues that should matter to debating Wright on of all things as to whether Wright and the black church as Wright claims are one and the same.

Finally, and worst of all, no matter how much he protests that Wright doesn’t represent him or his thinking, the fact is he sat in his church for nearly two decades, called him a spiritual mentor and family confidant, appointed him to an advisory post in his campaign, and in his so-called race speech refused to disown his two decade experience and relationship with him. This instantly makes his Wright protest sound like the wail of a politician running scared, and who sees the long, arduous, time consuming and patient work he put into building up public trust in him as the nation’s great political hope fast washing down the drain.

But Obama is no different than other inexperienced politicians who get blind-sided by damaging and hurtful allegations and associations. They panic, do their public mea culpas, and hope and pray that it all blows over. It never does. The clouds of doubt remain transfixed in the air of the voter’s minds, and that doubt will always be there with whispers, wisecracks, and raised eyebrows that maybe the politician with a taint who so many put their fervent faith and hope in is not all that he’s cracked up to be.

The more optimistic Obama backers point to Bill Clinton as the best example of a much admired, effective political leader who rebounded from a scandal and attacks and whose popularity ratings soared to the stars. That’s true but there are some big differences. Clinton was a battle tested, second term president, the economy was booming, there were no major foreign policy crises, and millions of supporters including many Republicans saw the GOP assaults on him as nothing more than vindictive partisan politics. That was more than enough for him to ride out the tide.

Obama is hardly Clinton. And the issue that dogged Clinton was sex. The issue that dogs Obama is race. That in any season is perennially for a politician, especially a black politician, their worst nightmare. That’s even truer for Obama who has worked tirelessly to sell white voters on his non-racial message of unity, harmony, and hope.

Obama then must understand two things. Wright isn’t going away. His ego and a press insatiable for any inflammatory Wright quip will insure that. If that’s so then Obama should button it up on Wright. Anything else he says on him will further insure that Obama not Wright is Obama’s worst enemy.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Vote Demographics Spells Much Bigger Trouble for Obama than Pennsylvania Loss
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Barack Obama’s decisive Pennsylvania loss to Hillary Clinton was predictable and inevitable. Obama pretty much confirmed that when he tossed in the towel and spent the crucial countdown hours to the primary vote at a fundraiser in Indiana. But the loss in that state is the least of Obama’s troubles.
But let’s start with Pennsylvania. More than eighty percent of the voters there are white, a significant percent are blue collar, rural, less educated, and less financially well-endowed. Many are gun owners and devoutly religious. The Democrats among them are solid Clinton backers. Pennsylvania voters mirror the voter profile in a majority of states.
One in five Pennsylvania voters made it clear that race was a factor in their vote. Translated; they would not vote for an African-American for president, no matter how fresh, articulate and race neutral his pitch. If Obama hadn’t gotten ninety percent of the black vote mostly in Philadelphia and other urban spots in the state, Clinton would have demolished him.
Obama’s one big and consistent trump card has been the youth vote, those aged 18-29. They are voting. And the overwhelming majority of them are voting for Obama. But Pennsylvania showed the problem in banking on them to propel a candidate to victory. There simply aren’t enough of them. They make up slightly more than 10 percent of the vote in the state. Their number is dwarfed by older voters over age 45 that make up nearly seventy percent of the vote there. Older, white male, rural voters have been the pathway to the White House for GOP presidents since Nixon. In a head to head contest with McCain, Clinton almost certainly wouldn’t beat him out for their vote, but she’d be competitive. Obama wouldn’t be. The highest percentage of young voters is in solid Democrat or Democratic leaning states. In 2004 the youth voter turnout was highest in Minnesota (69%), Wisconsin (63%), Iowa (62%), Maine (59%), and New Hampshire (58%). In Pennsylvania, there was even an ominous note with the youth vote; race sneaked in. Clinton did surprisingly well with white voters under age 30.

The hard numbers and demographics may be less troubling than voter attitudes and that’s Democratic voter attitudes towards Clinton, and especially Obama. They can be summed up in one word: polarization. That polarization has gotten wider and deeper with every swap of a name call, finger point, and character attack by Clinton and Obama on each other. One quarter of Democrats say they will either cross over and vote for McCain or stay home if Obama is the nominee. Fewer Democrats say they will defect if Clinton’s the nominee. Put bluntly, a general would be hard pressed to win a major battle if one quarter of his troop’s desert before the first shot is fired.
The dominant issue for voters is no longer the Iraq war but the economy. Those that are most likely to stampede the polls in anger over a turned South economy are the voters that Clinton best appeals to. In exit polls, voters said that they thought Obama and Clinton would do better than McCain in handling the economy, but more favored Clinton in handling the economic meltdown.
Pennsylvania was a crowning vindication of Clinton’s win the big state strategy. These are the states that are in play for the Democrats and these are the states that will decide ultimately who will sit in the White House. Obama’s wins in the South and West are side show, feel good wins. These are locked down red states. With the exception of Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, a Democratic presidential candidate has won only one Western state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Four of the states with remaining primaries are textbook examples of the meaningless of a Democratic primary win in these states. The last Democrat to win Indiana was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The last Democrat to win North Carolina was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Clinton was the last Democrat to win West Virginia. He also broke the Democratic presidential drought in Kentucky with his wins in 1992 and 1996. While it’s true that some of these states have Democratic governors and senators, this means little in a national election. The Democrats that win in these states are independent, self-reliant and conservative. They are the exact opposite of the Obama and even Clinton profile.
There’s one more troubling note for Obama. The majority of voters overall and that includes a significant percentage of Clinton’s backers think that Obama will eventually get the Democratic nomination they aren’t exactly doing handstands at that prospect. More Obama backers say that they will be just as content if Clinton gets the nomination. Fewer Clinton backers say they’ll be content if Obama gets the nomination.
Obama’s Pennsylvania loss does not dampen his chance of eventually getting the Democratic nomination. But the voter demographics that stack up high against him dampen his chance of getting the White House.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Ethnic Presidency

Sexism is the X Factor for Hillary that McCain and Obama Don’t Have to Worry About
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Chelsea Clinton is incredibly na├»ve, incredibly sheltered, incredibly in denial, or maybe a bit of all three. In late March, Hillary Clinton’s daughter told a Young Democrats audience in North Carolina that she was shocked at the nasty things some male (and even female) folk on the campaign trail are saying about her mother such as “Iron my shirts,” and “the nutcracker in your…….” The vulgarities are heaped on top of the hard headed belief of many men and women that a woman just doesn’t have the right stuff to be the nation’s commander in chief.

Chelsea would have gotten a healthy lesson in Sexism 101 if she had glanced at polls, and that includes a CBS News poll taken just a week before her talk, that have consistently shown that far more Americans have a bigger problem voting for a woman for president than an African-American.

The worst part of this is that if any one dared make a racial crack about Barack Obama they’d be pounded into the sand. Yet, blatant sexist and anti-woman remarks are routinely spewed out, often unchallenged, and even cackled at. In the CBS News poll though more said they have heard more racist cracks in the past few months than sexist cracks, they were less likely to be offended by the sexist ones than the racist ones.

The big worry for the Clinton camp is not the sexist inuendoes, wisecracks and even the double standard that gender and race are treated on the campaign trail but how many voters it might scare away from Clinton in a head to head showdown with John McCain. There’s good reason for the scare.

The gender gap was first identified and labeled in the 1980 presidential contest between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. That year Reagan got more than a 20 percent bulge in the margin of male votes over Carter. Women voters by contrast split almost evenly down the middle in backing both Reagan and Carter. Men didn’t waver from their support of Reagan during his years in office. Many of the men that backed Reagan made no secret about why they liked him. His reputed toughness, firmness and refusal to compromise on issues of war and peace fit neatly into the often time stereotypical male qualities of professed courage, determination and toughness.

The gender split is always apparent when there’s a crisis such as a brush fire war, a physical conflict, or the threat of a terrorist attack. Even before he took office, pollsters noted that far more women than men openly worried that Reagan would get us into a war. This was not a major concern for men. The divergence between men and women on the issue of war and peace showed up again in even more stark contrast two decades later on the Iraq war. Polls showed gaps of nearly twenty percent between men and women when asked how long they thought American troops should stay in Iraq. Far more women than men said that the troops should be withdrawn as quickly as possible.

The huge spread in male and female views on public policy issues was just as pronounced in the terrorism war. More men than women by nearly 20 percent took a harder stance against nations that they perceive back terrorist groups.
In countless surveys, polls, and anecdotal conversations, women say they are less likely to stay up on political issues than men, and are more likely to vote for a candidate based on personal likes or dislikes than men. When asked what they liked about Clinton, many women reflexively said they liked her toughness. That's generally considered a rough and tumble male quality.

The issues of war, national security, strong defense, and terrorism doesn’t totally explain the constant 15 to 20 percent gender gap between men and women on candidates and issues in elections noted as far back as 1980. Another possible explanation for that is how men and women perceive the messages that male candidates convey and whether they use code words and terms to convey them.

GOP presidential candidates and presidents in past decades have at various times skewered social programs and nakedly played the race card in presidential campaigns beginning with Goldwater in 1964. Since then other Republicans at times artfully stoked male rage with racially charged slogans like "law and order," "crime in the streets," "welfare cheats," and "absentee fathers." Bush's John Wayne frontier brashness, and get tough, bring em' on rhetoric in talking about the Iraq and the war against terrorism was calculatingly geared to appeal to supposed male toughness.
The endemic sexism buried deep in the skulls of many American voters alone won’t sink Clinton. It’s just simply another X factor for Clinton that Obama and McCain don’t have to worry about.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House

Race Is Still the X Factor for Obama
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

There’s a good and bad note for Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama in the recent exit polls of white voters in Democratic primaries. The good note is that by a lopsided majority of six to one whites said that race was not a factor in considering whether to back Obama or not. That pretty much conforms to virtually every poll that’s been taken since Obama tossed his hat in the presidential ring a year ago. His red state Democratic primary and caucus wins and the handful of endorsements he’s gotten from the red state Democratic senators and governors seem to bolster the poll findings as well as his camp’s contention that the majority of whites have bought his race neutral change and unity pitch.

The bad note for him, though, is buried in the racial rose tinged poll numbers. In fact, they were actually buried there even as he rolled up big numbers in his primary victories in Georgia, Mississippi, Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, and South Carolina, and the District of Columbia. Blacks make up a substantial percentage of the vote in those states, and he bagged eighty to ninety percent of their vote. But much less noted was that Clinton got almost sixty five to seventy percent of white votes.

It wasn’t just the reverse racial numbers for Clinton and Obama. Obama does incredibly well in netting the vote of college educated, upscale whites. But Clinton does just as well in bagging support from lower income downscale, and rural white voters. This has huge potential downside implications for Obama in a head to head battle with John McCain in the red states. A significant percent of the voters there are lower income, rural and less educated whites. Obama banks that he can pry one or two of the red states from the GOP. Yet, if he can’t convince Clinton’s white vote supporters, and they are Democrats, to back him, the chances are nil that he’ll have any more success with Republican and independent white voters in these states.

A hint of that came in the Democratic primary in Ohio. Clinton beat out Obama in the primary, and she did it mainly with white votes. But that wasn’t the whole story. Nearly one quarter of whites in Ohio flatly said race did matter in voting. Presumably that meant that they would not vote for a black candidate no matter how politically attractive or competent he was.

An even bigger hint of the race difficulty could come in Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary. The voter demographics in the state perfectly match those in Ohio. A huge percent of Pennsylvania voters are blue collar, anti-big government, socially conservative, pro defense, and intently patriotic, and there’s a tormenting history of a racial polarization in the state. Pundit James Carville has even described Pennsylvania as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in between. Carville’s characterization is hyperbolic, but devastatingly accurate. Take the state’s two big, racially diverse cities out of the vote equation, and Pennsylvania would be rock solid red state Republican. While polls show some fluctuation in Clinton’s decisive lead over Obama there, she still has a solid lead.

The near unanimous backing that whites give to the notion of voting for a black candidate for president also deserves to be put to a political test to see how much truth there is to it. The question: “Would you vote for a black candidate for president?” is a direct question, and to flatly say no to it makes one sound like a bigot, and in the era of verbal racial correctness (ask Don Imus), it’s simply not fashionable to come off to pollsters sounding like one. That’s hardly the only measure of a respondent’s veracity. In a 2006 study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, a Yale political economist found that white Republicans are 25 percentage points more likely to cross over and vote for a Democratic senatorial candidate against a black Republican foe. The study also found that in the near twenty year stretch from 1982 to 2000, when the GOP candidate was black, the greater majority of white independent voters backed the white candidate.

Republicans and independents weren’t the only ones guilty of dubious Election Day color-blindness. Many Democrats were too. In House races, the study found that Democrats were nearly 40 percent less likely to back a black Democratic candidate than a white Democrat.

Obama’s Democratic primary and caucus wins certainly show that many white voters will vote for him. They obviously feel that he has the right presidential stuff. But a large number of whites aren’t quite ready to strap on their racial blinders even for a candidate who has leaned way over backward to run a race neutral, bipartisan, unity campaign. The big question is just how many whites will refuse to strap on the racial blinders on Election Day. That’s still the X factor for Obama.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Political Analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson Challenges Barack Obama to Answer Ten troubling Questions about His Campaign

Political Analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson Challenges Barack Obama to Answer Ten troubling Questions about His Campaign

Description: Political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson has asked Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama to explain his positions and actions on ten documented and questionable political dealings and statements from the Iraq War to indicted financier Tony Rezko.

Los Angeles, Ca. U.S. April 1, 2008—

Press Release

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama has sold himself to millions as a politician of a new type. .His campaign is based on the firm pillar that he represents a new, open, fresh, and transparent politics. He is the candidate that is supposedly the antithesis of the political duplicity, double dealing, evasions, lies and corruption that mars other candidates.

However, Hutchinson contends, his statements and positions reveal a pattern of ambiguity, evasion, and misrepresentation on the Iraq war, his dealings with nuclear giant, Exelon and indicted financier Tony Rezko, the acceptance of tainted campaign contributions, a poor attendance record in the Senate, and the failure to record votes on key issues.

Hutchinson says that if Obama is indeed the candidate of transparency that he claims to be he will answer the ten troubling questions that Hutchinson has formally submitted to his campaign headquarters. These questions raise serious doubts about his contention that he represents a radical break from the political past. Hutchinson notes that if he’s the Democratic presidential nominee, John McCain and the GOP truth squad will ask him these questions.

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Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February, 2008).
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