Dems 2008: Barack Obama may be the next McGovern, but 2008 may not be 1972 [Karl]
The notion that Barack Obama is the second coming of George McGovern is taking hold across the ideological spectrum.Ã‚Â At TNR, John B. Judis writes that Obama’s vote in Pennsylvania took on the shape of a McGovernite coalition led by college students and minorities:
Its ideology is very liberal. Whereas in the first primaries and caucuses, Obama benefited from being seen as middle-of-the-road or even conservative, he is now receiving his strongest support from voters who see themselves as “very liberal.” In Pennsylvania, he defeated Clinton among “very liberal” voters by 55 to 45 percent, but lost “somewhat conservative” voters by 53 to 47 percent and moderates by 60 to 40 percent. In Wisconsin and Virginia, by contrast, he had done best against Clinton among voters who saw themselves as moderate or somewhat conservative.
Obama even seems to be acquiring the religious profile of the old McGovern coalition. In the early primaries and caucuses, Obama did very well among the observant. In Maryland, he defeated Clinton among those who attended religious services weekly by 61 to 31 percent. By contrast, in Pennsylvania, he lost to Clinton among these voters by 58 to 42 percent and did best among voters who never attend religious services, winning them by 56 to 44 percent. There is nothing wrong with winning over voters who are very liberal and who never attend religious services; but if they begin to become Obama’s most fervent base of support, he will have trouble (to say the least) in November.
At NRO,Ã‚Â Victor Davis Hanson sees a McGovernite tingeÃ‚Â to Obama’s inability to win key states in a general election, concluding that:
More and more, McCain will want to run against Obama and his far weaker coalition of elite whites, African-Americans, students Ã¢â‚¬â€ and closets of skeletons. More and more, we will start to see the buyer’s remorse of midsummer 1972.
There is a McGovernite dynamic in the way that Obama mobilized antiwar voters to surge past the nominal front-runner by winning caucuses in normally Republican states.Ã‚Â So much so that former McGovernite Hillary Clinton should be kicking herself for not seeing it coming.Ã‚Â The 3-D analysis ofÃ‚Â the modern Democratic coalition written earlier this monthÃ‚Â by John G. Caulfield (which I recommend again) neatly points out that Obama’s coalition joins Gary Hart voters with Jesse Jackson voters in a way not seen since 1972, if ever.Ã‚Â It is usually the Gary Hart voter — the upscale white progressive — who does not get his or her first choice as the nominee.
Fortunately for Obama, despite the presence of an unpopular war, 2008Ã‚Â may not be 1972 revisited.Ã‚Â Rather, this cycle has shaped up asÃ‚Â part ofÃ‚Â a recurring 16-year cycle of Ã¢â‚¬Å“changeÃ¢â‚¬Â elections — 1960, 1976 andÃ‚Â 1992.Ã‚Â Democrats tend to eke out a victory in such elections.Ã‚Â
However, JFKÃ‚Â did not carry the baggage of the New Left with him.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â CarterÃ‚Â and Clinton were both Southerners; neither ran as McGovernite.Ã‚Â Moreover, CarterÃ‚Â unapologetically touted that he wasÃ‚Â aÃ‚Â born again Christian.
This is why the trends identified by Judis are ominous for Obama in a way young wippersnappers like Ezra Klein do not understand.Ã‚Â Obama started this campaign with great appeal to religious folk, as Carter had.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Obama also had a more moderate image that would appeal to Clinton ’92 voters, especially given Obama’s emphasis on hopeyness and changitude.
Now, Obama seems to have less appeal to religious white voters, moderates and independents.Ã‚Â In this context,Ã‚Â it is hard to discount Obama’s 20-year relationship with the noxious Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama’s own “clingy” kerfuffle as corrosive.Ã‚Â He finds himself in aÃ‚Â fight with Hillary Clinton, with his campaign talking about taking the gloves off, even if in a measured way.Ã‚Â
TheÃ‚Â pitfall for Obama here is that the negativity of the Pennsylvania Democratic campaign tarnished both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, according to exit poll results.Ã‚Â He must defend himself,Ã‚Â but Obama’s appeal is to lovers, not fighters.Ã‚Â Judis notes that in Pennsylvania, ObamaÃ‚Â lost ground among the upscale white professionals in Montgomery and Bucks counties.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â That is a core component of Obama’s coalition.Ã‚Â If Obama starts losing the latte liberals, he risks losing primaries (and key demos in primaries he wins) by a large enough margin to play into the ClintonÃ‚Â superdelegate strategyÃ‚Â of raising doubts about his electability.