Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Turning the Page

With over 90% of the vote counted in Wisconsin, Obama is leading by 17 points: 58% to 41%. It is a victory that validates the trends of the Virginia and Maryland results last week, but in a state where minorities--black, Latino and a significant number of Native Americans--comprise perhaps 10% of the population.

It is a victory across demographic groups. For example, this summary: The exit polls show that Obama cut deeply into Hillary's core constituencies in racking up his sizable victory in Wisconsin tonight. Obama made it very close among females, losing to Hillary by the slimmest of margins, 51%-49%. [Update: revised figures have it exactly 50-50.] He won by a sizable margin among middle-aged voters, 53%-46%. He won by decent margins among voters with an income less than $50,000. He won by big margins among self described moderates and conservatives. He won overwhelmingly among people who decided in the last week or the last three days, though Hillary won narrowly among those who decided in the last day.
He won narrowly among members of union households.

Further, exit polls showed the top three issues were the economy, the war and health care--and Obama won all three. There was a virtual tie on capability to be commander-in-chief, and Obama won the "cares about me" category.

Hillary's negative campaigning didn't work, and by something like 2-1 voters thought she was unfair. Obama had a large majority on the most electable in the fall, and over 80% of the voters said they would be satisfied with him as the party's nominee, while Clinton was in the low sixties.

In political campaign terms, Hillary again this week did not take voters from any categories she hadn't won before, and Obama did, big time. Obama increased his share of young and first time voters. Add in the delegates and popular votes won, the 9 victories in a row (with the 10th possibly coming within hours) and the momentum favoring Obama in Texas and Ohio, and the state of the campaign is this: barring something highly unusual, the question is not whether Barack Obama will be the 2008 Democratic nominee for President, but when.

To that point, Obama spoke with a reporter before his speech in Houston tonight and said, immediately after the contests of March 4 is an appropriate time for the party to decide that the nomination campaign should end.

As for how Obama energizes the electorate, Hillary alone got more votes than the entire Republican field.

By the way, Barack was kind enough to email me (and about a half million of his other close friends) with his take on the results:

Today, the people of Wisconsin voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new kind of politics. They rejected an onslaught of negative attacks and attempts to distract them from the common concerns we all have about the direction of our country. No doubt we'll hear much more of these attacks and distractions in the days to come. But the noise of these tired, old political games will not drown out the voices of millions calling for change.

So he's bracing for the full Clinton press. Now here are my forecasts: Her last chance: the debate Thursday. If she can't change the dynamic then, it will be too late by Friday. I expect Bill Richardson to endorse Obama tomorrow, and show up to campaign in Texas. Nobody else is predicting this that I know of. If John Edwards was thinking about endorsing Hillary, he must know that it's now too late. He either endorses Obama and campaigns for him in Ohio, or he waits until March 5 and begins the less than subtle attempt to tell Hillary it's over.

Obama talks about "turning the page" with the next election, which is exactly the right message--I mean, I might say "a fresh start" but...--and it has been the message the electorate wants to send since 2006. (So don't be surprised if Obama wins Pennsylvania, if it gets that far.) But as of tonight, for Hillary Clinton, the page is turning, and it's almost turned.

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