As the tightest Democratic Presidential campaign in our lifetimes moves into Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Barack Obama is handing out flyers for his President’s Day White Sale. He’s cracked almost every demographic in every state he’s campaigned, and the last nut he needs to crack if he wants to win the nomination outright are his alabaster brothers and sisters, the mayonnaise and country music crowd, the Pat and Debbie Boones of the country: The American Caucasian.
Or so the polls in these battleground states would have you believe. Forget the breakdown in all of the last eight consecutive contests he’s won that shows him closing the gap among white males, and his utter destruction of Hillary in America’s vanilla valhallas of Idaho and North Dakota. He apparently has a white problem. Be sure and watch the backdrop crowds at the coming Obama speeches and watch them skew whiter, older, and femaler (okay, fine, “and with more women”; I just didn’t want to break the rhythm). A Qunnipiac University poll released Thursday had Hillary Clinton with a 21-point lead in Ohio and a 16-point lead in Pennsylvania. In each state the phrase was repeated for Hillary: “A two-to-one edge among white voters.”
I’m trying to resist the inclination to anoint Obama as the nominee already. Never mind the superdelegates. Never mind the potential minefields of the Florida and Michigan debacles to come. Never mind that Hillary Clinton, like her husband, is the classic and horrifying slasher movie corpse who, when you lean over to see if she’s really dead after she took a chainsaw through her sternum, will open her eyes, bare her fangs, and rip your larynx clean out while you twitch and gurgle and paw helplessly at your throat for your few last seconds wondering what just happened.
No, I just want to watch the next week or two and see what happens in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and, to a lesser extent, Texas (Texas is still as big as…well, Texas, but Obama is starting to machete into Hillary’s lead among Hispanics [he won them in Virginia], and a poll released Friday by the much vaunted and feared Texas Credit Union League [?] has Hillary up by eight points over Barack and Barack within the margin of error, factoring in the undecideds). Are these two states behind or ahead of the rest of the nation? Is it just that Barack doesn’t have his air and ground game going yet? Is there a YouTube video I missed of Barack in Pittsburgh backing his car up to the river bank and tossing bags of trash into the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers, then taking a moment to relieve himself in the water for good measure? Did I miss the memo about Ohio and Pennsylvania being hotbeds of racial intolerance, and that their states are the last bulwarks against this man and his kind coming for their daughters? What do Ohio and Pennsylvania’s Caucasians know or fear that the rest of the country apparently doesn’t?
I’m not convinced. This has been a year to mistrust polls and I’m not sure about this one and others that have displayed similar results. In recent history (which, in politics, means the last ten days), the only place Hillary could poll at 21 points up would be at a Rodham-Clinton family reunion–and even that’s just a maybe. It’s really more likely that he hasn’t put that Barack Mojo to work on either state yet. I’m not sitting here writing this with my Obama jersey on, but I’ve been watching, agape and agog, at the rock star excitement this man has attracted virtually everywhere he goes, and there’s no objective evidence to suggest why Ohio and Pennsylvania would be immune. He apparently has what Hillary’s husband has always had, but has yet to fully manifest itself in her: An ability to engage, connect, and win over. If he used his powers for evil, he’d be the kind of man who could spend ten minutes with you and leave you with your signature on a deed for two acres of Superfund-designated property in west New Jersey.
One thing is clear, as ugly as the Democratic race has been to this point, it’s far from being beyond the pale.