Watching the returns on the Kentucky primary and they are not looking good for Obama. With 90% of precincts in, Obama is only getting approximately 30% of the votes. While this is not a surprise, he wasn’t going to win Kentucky now or in the fall, it does raise questions.
Following a week after his trouncing in West Virginia, a state no Democrat has lost and still won the White House in more than 80 years, the Kentucky loss shows a real weakness with working class whites. While this follows recent polling, it is one thing to see polls and another to see the voting in action.
Further, with Hillary Clinton refusing to quit, the protracted race is causing hard feelings in the Democratic party. Evidence of a fractured Democratic party are abundant. To date we have 2 of the 6 living Democratic Vice Presidential candidates saying they do not support Obama. Joe Leiberman has previously given his support to John McCain. This is a pretty brave move politically by Leiberman. Since his re-election to the Senate last year as an Independent, Leiberman has caucused with the Democrats which has given him committee assignments he would not have gotten as an independent. Supporting McCain is certainly going to cost him his committee assignments. Now today we have Geraldine Ferraro saying she may not vote for Obama in the general election.
Further, in state after state, polling shows a large number of Clinton voters saying they will not vote for Obama if he wins the nomination. We do have to dismiss these numbers to some extent because a lot of the Democrats who say that now will eventually support Obama and vote for him. With this said though, presidential elections have been within a few points in the last few elections. It would not take many Democrats to vote for McCain instead of Obama to swing the election McCain’s way. This election is even more of a risk for the Democrats in that McCain, as a moderate, already draws some Democrats. Having McCain to vote for may make the choice to switch easier for Democrats that are weak for Obama. In the 2004 election, 11% of Democrats voted for Bush, a president who is definitely not popular with Democrats. What will the number be this year with a Republican who has cross-over appeal and a Democrat who has his own party questioning him?
Finally, there is the female vote. While no one is talking about the women’s vote as much they are talking about the white vote, this could be as big of a problem. A lot of feminists truly believed this was Hillary Clinton’s year and some comments have suggested that there is a feeling among this group that Obama has stolen the nomination from Clinton. This could be the group that stays home in November. This would be a significant blow for Obama.
There is one last thing to consider. While I know that this is something that runs counter to conventional wisdom, Obama could cause the Democrats votes in Congress. Everything says this is a Democratic year and they are going to win big. I have even heard projections of Democrats picking up a hundred new seats in the House and a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. While I am not predicting the Republicans will retake Congress, Obama may keep this from being a Democratic landslide.
There are two ways the Democrats could lose votes in Congressional races. One is if, with everything listed above, Democrats decide to stay home on election day. This would not only be a missed vote for Obama but also a missed vote for Congressmen, Senators, Governors, etc. Second is with cross-over voters. It is not impossible, although less likely than the first scenario, that McCain can carry some of the cross-over voters to Congressional and Senatorial races.
Before anyone dismisses this idea completely, remember that a lot of the new Democratic Congressmen elected in 2006 were conservatives, not traditional Democrats, and a lot of them won with narrow margins. And, they are all up for re-election. Combine this with the fact that Congress is at an all time low in public opinion and this Congress really has nothing to show for two years in power and this may not be the banner year for Democrats that everybody thinks it will.
One last note is the theory that McCain may be able to “rebrand” the Republican party. A possibly resurgent Republican party along with a weak top of the ticket could be a problem for Democrats.
With all of this said, the smart money is still on the Democrats this year. The reality is though that November is a long ways away and this election is not in the bag. Obama and the Democrats have some problems and the good news is that they will not admit it. Obama, once the juggernaut who could not be stopped, is looking less a sure thing everyday.