Sunday, January 27, 2008



I almost hesitated to entitle this post as I did because the press has not rushed to proclaim Senator Barack Obama the inevitable nominee in the wake of his admittedly stunning victory in South Carolina, as they have coronated virtually ever winner of every primary of this intriguing political season. Perhaps they have been chastened by hard reality, which would mark a decided departure from the normal custom of the press. However, it is early, and I suspect that, before February 5 rolls around, you will read, see, and hear plenty of experts telling us Senator Obama has it in the bag. Again, don’t believe it.

South Carolina is a highly unusual state, as are Iowa and New Hampshire, for one opposite reason and a few of the same reasons. While Iowa and New Hampshire are overwhelmingly White, South Carolina, while not overwhelmingly Black, has a Democratic electorate that is 50% Black, way out of proportion to the nation as a whole or even to the Democratic electorate. Like Iowa, South Carolina is more rural than the country as a whole. Like both New Hampshire and Iowa, its population is small, albeit not as small as either the Granite or the Hawkeye state. Lest anyone think that I am underestimating the Palmetto state’s value as a bellwether, recall that President Jesse Jackson won the Democratic primary in South Carolina in both 1984 and 1988.

That having been said, the following must be noted about Senator Obama’s victory:

--Obama beat Clinton 55%-27%, surpassing even what some considered grossly inflated predictions of a 15% plus victory.
--Obama garnered 80% of the Black vote, dispelling the notion that he will not run as well among Blacks as one would expect either because he is “not Black enough” or because Black voters, especially older Black voters, are convinced that a Black man has no chance of getting elected in this country for the foreseeable future.
--Obama garnered 25% of the White vote. Before the elections, experts were telling us that he would get maybe 20% of the White vote, and just before the election, there was a lot of talk that his percentage of the White vote could fall to 10%.

All in all, it was an impressive victory for Senator Obama, and no one knows who will get either nomination, but it is still difficult to see how Senator Clinton does not win the Democratic nod, and only slightly less difficult to see how she doesn’t wrap it up on February 5. Why? Michael Tackett, a Chicago Tribune correspondent, put it well when he reported, as the Insightful Pontificator has been writing for months: “The time for anything remotely resembling retail politics has passed, with time spent in coffee shops or even small forums quickly becoming quaint memories. The premium will be on advertising and organization.” (Emphasis mine) As I have said and written many times in the past, money and organization wins primaries, and will be especially crucial this year with its tightly compressed primary schedule. Senator Obama may be close, or perhaps even, with Senator Obama in money, but he isn’t even close in organization.

One more interesting note on the primary front:

Clinton is reportedly making a major effort, and pouring big money, into Illinois. Apparently, she feels she has a chance to come very close, or even win, here. I still doubt it; with Mayor Daley’s people behind Obama, our junior senator should win big in the Land of Lincoln. However, if she really does have a chance in Illinois, winning the nomination could be even easier victory for Senator Clinton than I anticipate.

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