Kentucky and Oregon guidelines: Presidential and senatorial primaries

Ever since the end of February, Democratic voters played a crual game in maintaining the status-quo over and over again, forcing both candidates to go through the motions of a competitive race by granting Clinton victories credible enough for her to win the night but not convincing enough for the fundamentals of the race to change. Since May 6th, we have left the cruelty and entered the surreal phase, in which only one candidate is going through the motions of a competitive race, the other having moved on to the general election by visiting this fall's battleground state and battling the Republican nominee.

This is what makes today's elections so difficult to assess: Is there any result, no matter how favorable to her, that could truly help Hillary Clinton? Or is the only question at this point what effect the result will have on Barack Obama -- will they force him to go through more talk of his electability weakness and his problems among the working class, or will they put a triumphant coda on his march towards the nomination?

The Kentucky primary is likely to be a triumph for Hillary Clinton which means that the exit polls will be as closely parsed as those in West Virginia last week: Does Obama's weakness with white voters and blue-collar voters express itself in Kentucky? Will there be as many voters confessing to racial basis as they were last week?

It would be a huge surprise (and the only result worth considering more carefully as to whether it could pause the flow of superdelegates) if Obama did not win the Oregon primary, though the margin should be inferior to that of Clinton in Kentucky. The Obama campaign is quick to point out that Oregon is also big on blue-collar white voters; indeed, Oregon is an ovwelmingly white state with a strong working-class, so it will certainly be important to consider the voting breakdown in Oregon when judging Obama's weakness among blue-collar voters.

Obama hopes that this proves that his problem is not quite as big as West Virginia's results suggested, though it's important to note that Obama was trounced by Clinton among blue-collar voters in states with less racial polarization. In fact, only in Wisconsin did Obama do significant inroads among blue-collar voters. The Obama campaign believes Oregon could be a remake of Wisconsin and that Obama does significantly better than usual among Clinton's core groups; if it is (and given the fact that the party is increasingly uniting around the Illinois Senator), it would be a huge victory for his camp that would deflect much of the negative press he should receive about Kentucky.

Timing will likely be key tonight, just as it was on May 6th when Gary County holding its results prevented Clinton from claiming victory earlier in the night and only heightened Obama's domination of the results' coverage. Tonight, we will get results from Kentucky early: The first numbers will start trickling in at 6pm ET (KY and IN have among the earliest closing times) and there should be a call at 7pm. Oregon, however, starts releasing results at 11pm (note that more than 2/3rds of the votes have arleady been mailed-in before today, and a lot of those will already have been counted so results should come in quickly). That means that when Obama delivers his triumphant speech in Iowa -- and possibly at press time -- only the Kentucky results will be known, and that could influence the night's coverage.

Down-the-ballot: Perhaps more suspenseful and ultimately more meaningful than the presidential primaries, there are two Senate primaries playing out in Oregon and Kentucky as well. The tightest is in Oregon, where state House speaker Jeff Merkley is facing a surprisingly competitive challenge by Steve Novick. The DSCC recuited Merkley and has even aired ads to help him and organized phone banks, but the latest polls show a toss-up with the slightest of edges to Novick who ran the more creative campaign. The winner will face Senator Gordon Smith in the genearl election in what Democrats believed would be one of their best opportunities a few months ago; the optimism is less prevalent today.

Kentucky, meanwhile, might be the DSCC's biggest recruitment failure now that Kay Hagan looks to have some potential in NC. Polls in the fall showed Senator McConnell very vulnerable a number of Democratic officials, all of which declined to run one-by-one. Today, Bruce Lunsford, a centrist/conservative Democrat who lost the gubernatorial primary in 2007, is favored to get his party's nod against Greg Fisher.

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  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 20 May, 2008 16:13  

  • It's posts like the previous one that have me convinced the democrats will NEVER be able to unite around their eventual nominee.

    By Blogger Daniel Greenfield, At 20 May, 2008 17:12  

  • Daniel-

    I don't think the original post was representative of the general Democratic electorate. The ones that are the most upset about the way the nomination are turning out are the ones most likely to post and make outlandish statements.

    We're not getting a representative cross-section of the population in the blogisphere (blogosphere?). I think things will be far better among Dems in November than the online sample would indicate.

    Not to mention that the post had nothing to do with Taniel's entry.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 20 May, 2008 17:26  

  • "Does Obama's weakness with white voters and blue-collar voters"
    Obama doesn't have a problem with white voters and blue collar voters he has a problem with a groups of poorly educated white and blue collar workers in some states where they compete with blacks for jobs in industries being eliminated by outsourcing and technology. The large majority of whites in the US are willing to vote for him because they see him as a purveyor of change.

    By Anonymous fritz, At 20 May, 2008 17:35  

  • Fritz,

    It seems hard to say that Obama isn't weak among blue-collar voters: Those are Clinton's base, and they aren't just "groups of poorly educated voters" but majorities large enough to carry her to large victories in big states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

    Now, saying that Obama has a problem with blue-collar white voters would come to saying that he will have trouble holding on to these voters in the general election. This is the whole question: Obama is weak among these voters in the primary, but will he have a problem here in the general, when he can't afford to lose the support of registered Democrats?

    Also, it is absurd to dismiss Clinton's support is grounded on ignorant voters. After all, there is also ample evidence that many voters are throwing slogans like "Iron my shirt" to her face.

    By Blogger Taniel, At 20 May, 2008 18:10  

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