Saturday, January 26, 2008

Beware: The Race Card is Still in Play...

For sure, it was a HUGE victory for Obama tonight in SC and he gave another spirited and moving speech. It was exactly what was needed: a surprisingly big win and a rousing, positive, transcendent speech. Obama feels back in the game. I hope he can now parlay this into some momentum going into the February 5th contests. But, beware... the race card is still in play. In fact, what happened tonight is a part of the Clinton plan to "blackenize" Obama.

"What??!!?!?" you say... "He won by 29%!! You are crazy! The SC numbers were a clear repudiation of the Clinton's divisive race strategy. Everyone is talking about it."

Indeed, Obama won by a much larger margin than anyone thought possible. Shocking, really. And, it is true, he won with a bigger than expected proportion of the white vote, particularly in some key constituencies (under-30s, white men, etc.). So, I suspect he'll argue that this victory proves that his appeal transcends race and that he can, indeed, put together a winning coalition in the fall; and he might. But, the point all along for the Clintons after Iowa, was to "blackenize" Obama. To knock him off the race-transcendent groove and reduce him to a more narrowly defined "black candidate." In recent history, it has been proven again and again that "black candidates" do not garner much white support. Now, the Clintons have known for some weeks that Obama was going to win in SC. So, their plan, by playing all this racial crap, has been to racially polarize the electorate, which they have successfully done. They have tried to brand Obama as the "black candidate" and denigrate the SC primary as essentially a narrow "black primary." Here is the twist. By Obama winning so big, and with damn near 80% of the African American vote, the Clintons can argue, subtlely and not so subtlely, that this is just a black guy winning the black vote. I already heard a report that the Clintons are banking on the fact that "in SC Democrats vote for black guys, in CA they vote for white women." The Clintons are hoping that she can win the women, white and Hispanic votes in the remaining states. Even if he continues to get 80% of the African American vote, she wins.

What, you still don't buy it? You still think tonight was a repudiation of Clinton's racial innuendo? You think he has to back off?

Exhibit A: Bill Clinton tries to minimize Obama' landslide by equating (read, dismissing) him with Jess Jackson in '84 and '88.

Or, click here, or here, for a text analysis of the same issue.

Exhibit B: According to AP, here is how the Clintons spun the massive loss in SC:
Clinton campaign strategists denied any intentional effort to stir the racial debate. But they said they believe the fallout has had the effect of branding Obama as "the black candidate," a tag that could hurt him outside the South.

Ahhhhh, yes. Deny that you are playing the race card, but then suggest someone else might play it later... Either way, the racial doubt is put out there into the political ether. This way, the Clintons claim plausible deniability. Classic psycho-politics. Classic Clinton.

Still think they aren't playing the divisive race card?

Keep your eyes on the prize. In politics, never get distracted by the sideshow... or the smiling face and twinkling eyes.

It remains unclear which politic will carry the day, ultimately. The good money is still on Hillary. She has the structure to do well in the Feb. 5th elections and that is key. She also has polarized the electorate, at least to a degree. While not unanimous, we do see broad patterns in the SC vote: white men voted for Edwards, African Americans for Obama and white women for Hillary. She has been racking up large polling numbers among women, whites and Latinos in the Feb. 5th races. This bodes well for her. Yet, tonight's numbers suggest that this is at least a partly risky strategy. Obama did win enough of the white vote and he won overall by a decisive enough margin, that he just might be able to change the tide and...

Stay tuned. This just got REALLY interesting...

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