THE PLANK FEBRUARY 5, 2008
Delaware, Jon Chait's favorite state, tells an interesting, and disturbing, story about the battle for the nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. While Obama won the state, he did so because of overwhelming support from black voters, who made up 27 percent of the primary electorate and went for Obama by a stupendous 89 to 11 percent. That's the kind of margin one would expect if Obama were running against George W. Bush, not Hillary Clinton. If you look at the reason, it seems to have been a backlash vote. According to the exit polls, 54 percent of Obama's supporters thought that Hillary Clinton attacked Obama "unfairly."
By contrast, Clinton won the white vote by 56 to 33 percent (with nine percent to favorite son Joe Biden). She won whites over 60 years old by 62 to 25 percent (with 14 percent to Biden). Did race figure in this vote? I think so, although it's not clear how much. According to exit polls, 19 percent of voters thought "the race of the candidate" was "important" in deciding their vote. Of those, 49 percent went for Clinton or Biden and 52 percent for Obama. That means that race played a role in one out of five votes and that one of ten voters--presumably whites--voted against Obama at least partly because of his race. In so far as these voters would tend to understate the degree to which race influenced their voters, these are chilling figures.
Note: This is an update of a previous post.