Whose Coalition Is Bigger?

Ronald Brownstein – The National Journal

Copyright The National Journal
An excerpt:
…No previous Democratic presidential candidate has joined well-off whites to African-Americans as Obama is doing: It is as if he is melding the constituencies of Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson from 1984. Clinton’s lunch-bucket coalition of core Democrats motivated by material needs is more familiar — Walter Mondale, who ran against Hart and Jackson in 1984, would surely recognize it — but she adds to that familiar picture a new gender twist and a dominant position among Latinos.
Adding to the complexity, both contenders are demonstrating the rare ability to reshape the electorate. Obama is increasing the share of the vote cast by young people and the affluent, and women are turning out in huge numbers for Clinton. (So did Latinos in California.) “The bottom line is, these coalitions are of similar size, which is why the race is so close,” says veteran Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.
Before Tuesday, the emerging conventional wisdom was that a war of attrition would benefit Obama. That might be right. Obama’s huge donor base should allow him to outspend Clinton, who has already been forced to lend her campaign money.
Since the voting began, he has also attracted far more high-profile endorsements than Clinton — from centrist red-staters such as Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to liberal lions like Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. And even the Clinton campaign acknowledges that Obama is the favorite in most remaining February contests — particularly Tuesday’s primaries in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., which combine African-Americans with high-income whites.
March 4 looms as the critical date for Clinton. That’s when Texas and Ohio vote, and both are the sort of brawny blue-collar states that favor her. If Obama generates enough momentum in February to swipe either, it could trigger a rush toward him from party leaders eager to end the race (especially because John McCain seems likely to claim the GOP nomination by then). But if Clinton holds both, she could consolidate an advantage over Obama in the other beefy states that follow: Pennsylvania in April, and then Indiana and Kentucky — which don’t vote until May and may find their decisions more relevant than they, or anyone else, had expected….
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