Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Oregon Gives Obama a Blue-Collar Boost

Barack Obama's decisive 16-percentage-point victory in the Oregon primary gave him a majority of the pledged delegates at the upcoming Democratic convention, but its big

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2008 at 7:52 AM

Barack Obama's decisive 16-percentage-point victory in the Oregon primary gave him a majority of the pledged delegates at the upcoming Democratic convention, but its big significance might have been in showing that he can appeal to white working-class voters.

Hillary Clinton's claim that the African-American senator can't draw the votes of white blue-collar people who the Democrats will need to win in November would be demolished by a big Obama win in Oregon, Jeff Alworth wrote on the BlueOregon blog the day before the election:

"For months, a meme has been developed by lazy pundits who say Obama has lost the blue-collar white vote. Obama got killed in West Virginia, true enough, but since when did West Virginians stand in as representative of all white voters?

"Enter Oregon. Forget the People's Republic of Portland - the Beaver State is plenty hardscrabble. Our median income is nearly $2,000 below the national average, our per-capita income is lower than the national average, we have more people in poverty, and we regularly have higher unemployment. And of course, we're bone white - 90.5%, 10th whitest in the nation.

"Come tomorrow night, Obama will have notched another primary thanks to the broad support of whites, and pundits will be reminded that Obama did well with that demographic in Connecticut, Maryland, Missouri, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

"And let's not forget the 75,000 who showed up [Sunday in Portland] to watch him speak. The mostly white crowd provided an undeniable visual for those who want to pigeonhole Obama. How to reconcile the idea that he is unpalatable to whites when he can - as a primary-election candidate - draw one of the biggest crowds in recent political memory?"

Blogging on the Huffington Post this morning, Sam Stein laid out the numbers:

"White voters - the only ones in the exit polls because the state is so homogeneous - went to [Obama] in overwhelming numbers. In fact, every age group, except those older than 60, preferred Obama to ... Clinton. Obama, in addition, won the majority of voters whose total family incomes where less than $50,000 as well as all income groups, save for the smallest: $15,000 to $29,999. Union households, moreover, went to Obama by a margin of 60 percent to 37 percent."

Perhaps just as interesting, Obama carried not only the urban counties around Portland, Eugene and Salem, but also seven counties east of the Cascades, including Deschutes and Jefferson.

Expect the Clintonistas to tout Hillary's big victory in Kentucky yesterday as evidence that Obama still can't appeal to blue-collar whites - but, just like West Virginians, Kentuckians are hardly representative of such voters nationwide.

UPDATE: The Northwest Progressive site has come up with a map showing each candidate's percentage of the vote in each Oregon county. "There is one notable trend - the rural areas where Barack Obama spent time campaigning in gave him more votes (for example, in Pendleton and Bend)," the authors comment. "This is very encouraging news because it means that Obama can win people over if he simply ventures off the beaten path."

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