Obama's OTHER Forgotten Demographic -- Older Voters
While the Obama campaign and its surrogates have been trumpeting the fact that it is bringing in “new voters”, it seems to have forgotten a key component of the “old Democratic coalition” that it disparages.
“Old” voters. Literally.
The Clinton campaign consistently includes Hillary Clinton’s appeal to seniors when it discusses why she is the better choice to face off against John McCain – but the media seldom mentions older voters, choosing instead to concentrate on Clinton’s appeal to “white working class” voters to hype the race angle in the campaign.
The Obama campaign’s use of talking points involving “new voters” and a “new coalition” is sending a message to older voters – that “old” is worth a lot less to them than “new”, that young voters are more important than older voters, and that the “new coalition” means that the concerns of the “old coalition” members are no longer critical to the Party.
And all this is going on when the Republican Party will have a 71 year old as its nominee.
Obama’s numbers are appallingly bad among voters 60 years old and older. In the twelve states that have chosen their delegates since Super Tuesday for which exit polling is available, Obama has not only lost the “older” vote to Clinton by an average of 13 points (Clinton 55%, Obama 42%), his support among older voter is 11 points below his overall support. (Obama support among all voters – 53%, Obama support among older voters—42%).
Data for Obama’s Forgotten Demographic—Older voters Chart 1 % of voters 60 & older Clinton % Obama % IN 25% 65% 35% NC 30% 53% 44% PA 32% 62% 38% OH 23% 69% 28% MS 29% 52% 47% RI 33% 67% 33% TX 22% 62% 35% WI 29% 54% 45% VT 26% 41% 58% MD 23% 48% 47% VA 25% 44% 56% LA 33% 48% 41% AVERAGE 28% 55% 42%
· Older voters make up an average of 28% of the primary electorate in these states. In only two of 12 states were older voters less than one quarter of the electorate.
· Clinton carries the older vote in 10 of 12 states
· In the five states where Clinton won the popular vote her margins among older voters by at least 30% (Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island).
· In 5 of the states that Obama carried by double digit margins overall, he lost the “60 plus” vote (Maryland, North Carolina, Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Louisiana.)
Data for Obama’s Forgotten Demographic—Older voters Chart 2 OBAMA SUPPORT Voters 60 and All older voters IN 35% 49% LA 41% 57% MD 47% 60% MS 47% 61% NC 44% 56% OH 28% 44% PA 38% 45% RI 33% 40% TX 35% 47% VA 56% 64% VT 58% 59% WI 45% 58% AVERAGE 42% 53%
Is easy to understand why Barack Obama does so poorly among older voters: The rhetoric employed by Obama, his surrogates, and his supporters not merely fails to appeal to older voters, it seems to be designed to alienate older voters.
· The constant iteration of how important Obama’s appeal to “new” voters does more than simply sell an overt signal to older voters that they are not crucial to the Obama campaign, the constant use of the word “new” would have a subliminal negative impact because it is the opposite of “old”
· The constant iteration of how Obama is going to win with a “new coalition” sends the overt signal to older voters that their concerns will be given a lower priority because the concerns of the “new” coalition members must be addressed.
· The constant iteration of the “change” theme by a candidate with a virtually non-existent resume is not appealing to older voters. They’ve lived through decades of “change”, some of it good, some of it bad, and unlike younger voters don’t consider “change” itself a virtue absent a clear and unambiguous agenda.
· Obama’s overt and tacit disparagement of the concerns of white working class voters will not merely alienate “white working class seniors”. Many of the “middle” and “upper middle” class white seniors didn’t start out as “middle class”, but were born into working class families themselves.
· Obama’s willingness to adopt Right Wing framing on the issue of Social Security – that there is a “Social Security crisis” that he plans to address, is counter-productive to appealing to older voters. This is especially true given Obama “change” message, his emphasis on “new” (younger) voters and his “new coalition”, and his denigration of the concerns of“white working class” voters.
Obama may make promises to older voters, but he provides ample reason to believe that when it comes time to make the hard choices, the concerns of older voters will be low on his list of priorities.
And while the primary results show that Obama clearly benefits from “identity politics”, when it comes to older voters there is little question that in the general election “identity politics” is going to work against Obama among older voters. The GOP is running an “older” candidate with whom older voters can readily identify.
And the unfortunate fact is that every single voter who is at least 60 years old what at least 16 years old when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 means that older white voters grew up in an environment where racial prejudice and stereotyping were a given, As a result, promises made by an African American nominee with a sparse resume employing the rhetoric of “change” and the crucial importance of the “new” are likely to be treated with a great deal of skepticism by this key demographic that has consistently supported Democratic Presidential candidates.
While the enthusiasm of Super-delegates for “new voters” is understandable, ignoring the preferences of constituencies that were key to the victory of the only Democrat to win two Presidential elections since Franklin Delano Roosevelt could well result in a disaster for the Democratic Party in 2008. Barack Obama has promised to bring “change” through “unify”. But not only has Obama failed to demonstrate that he can achieve meaning for change with or without unity, while talking about “unity” he divided the Democratic Party, and while talking about “change” has relied upon traditional “identity politics” to remain competitive in the race for the nomination.
Barack Obama has promised a “new coalition”, but to date it is merely an empty promise. There is simply no evidence that he can create a successful “new coalition” in crucial swing states, and in most traditionally Democratic states. Nor is there any evidence that his success during the primary season in heavily Republican states can provide the Electoral College votes to replace those he puts at serious risk in states that Democrats have traditionally relied upon.
The Democratic Party relies on the judgment of Superdelegates when there is no clear choice among Democrats for the Party nomination. That judgment, and the necessity of providing Democratic office-holders, members of the Democratic National Committee, and other “Party leaders” with an automatic voice in the nomination process is being tested. What isn’t at stake is access to Barack Obama’s donor list and “grassroots organization”, but the future of the nation and the world.
The choice faced by Super-Delegates is simple – do you go with a “sure thing”, even if it means alienating “new voters” and not forming a so-far imaginary “new coalition”, or do you roll the dice on an untested and unproven nominee?
Data for charts and tables is from CNN election results and exit poll pages, which can be found at http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/primari...