May 22, 2008


Hillary Clinton botched the black vote
Her failure to challenge Barack Obama’s huge momentum among African-Americans — not a given at the start — may have doomed her campaign.

By Thomas F. Schaller
Reuters / Jonathan Ernst

May 5, 2008 | If Hillary Clinton fails to wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from Barack Obama, there will be plenty of second-guessing about how she ran her campaign. What if her loyalty to campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and chief strategist Mark Penn had not prevented her from demoting them sooner? What if her electoral strategists had better understood the power of caucus states and the way in which votes cast there translated into delegates? What if she had actually planned for the month following Super Tuesday, thereby preventing Obama from posting the 11 straight wins after Feb. 5 that provided him the pledged delegate lead he enjoys today? But beyond these questions, one little-discussed factor (with direct or indirect relation to all of the above) appears to have had fatal consequences for Clinton’s campaign: She failed to mount a strong enough challenge to Obama’s claim on the African-American vote.

Though a majority of black voters may inevitably have gone for Obama, nothing precluded the wife of the so-called first black president from keeping Obama’s margins among blacks significantly narrower — say, losing to him by 4-to-1 or even 3-to-1, rather than the devastating 9-to-1 margins by which Obama has often won African-American Democrats. “The Clinton campaign has been focused on Barack Obama’s performance with white working-class voters in a few states, but they fail to mention Senator Clinton’s abysmal performance with black voters all over the country,” says political consultant and Obama supporter Jamal Simmons. “She has gone from leading among black voters to losing them 90 percent to 10 percent in Pennsylvania. One would expect Obama to win these voters, but 90-10 is a total collapse that Obama is not experiencing among any constituency. Simply put, Hillary Clinton has a black problem.”

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