Super Tuesday’s final tallies are in and Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama remain in a dead heat to the finish line. That finish, however, may not come until the Democratic Party gathers in Denver for its national convention in August.
As the primary results illustrate, Democratic voters are in a quandary, unable to make a decisive choice between two viable candidates. Support is breaking down solidly along demographic lines. In state after state, it’s Dunkin Donuts versus Starbucks, black versus brown, and men versus women. Clinton has established a solid base of Latino, women, working class, and older voters. Obama’s support comes mainly from African Americans, young adults, men, and well-educated, upper-income voters.
Obama has clearly energized young voters who have embraced his message of change. But that presents an opportunity for Clinton, says James Taylor, an associate professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, to poach more women from the Obama camp.
“Clinton has to make more explicit appeals to remind young women about her credentials as a student at Wellesley College and how she was motivated to take her ambitions, goals, and dreams to another level,” he says. “So many barriers have been knocked down since then and she epitomizes much of that. More mature women already get it,” Taylor says.
Conversely, Obama needs to craft a message that will resonate with Latinos and working-class voters. “He can appeal to them by altering his message and talking about the economy and jobs. Clinton has the advantage there, but he can alter his message and chip away at that,” says San Francisco State professor of political science Robert Smith.
Taylor agrees. “He needs to appeal to Latinos by talking about bread-and-butter issues and concrete ways his agenda will benefit them. It doesn’t need to be an ethnic appeal–job creation, healthcare, and housing are the issues that will resonate more with Latinos and others [his campaign is] not tapping into. Clinton’s doing that,” Taylor adds.
Predictions have proven futile in this most unpredictable of campaign seasons, but based on the demographics, each candidate has an advantage in upcoming races. Projections for upcoming primaries have Obama likely to win this weekend in Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington, with Maine going to Clinton. He is also heavily favored in Tuesday’s “Chesapeake Primaries” taking place in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., which includes a large base of African American and upper-income voters. But Clinton has the biggest advantage in the big three: Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania, slated for March and April.
The party’s super delegates are going to be critical if there is no clear nominee this spring. This uncommitted group of delegates is made up of elected and party officials who don’t have to make a decision until the convention. But Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean is determined to avoid a protracted convention, which he believes will damage any Democrat’s prospects in the fall. “It would be bad for the party and voters. Based on turnout, the longer this process goes on, the greater the