Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mississippi Magic

By Joel Wendland

"Beat her," said Clinton campaign adviser and Democratic firebrand James Carville on CNN's Larry King Live Monday night (March 10) in regard to criticisms of Clinton's divisive campaign tactics. "If you want her out just beat her."

Carville's comments must infuriate Barack Obama supporters who are saying, "How many times do we have to win?"

After tonight's impressive victory in Mississippi, Barack Obama has won 28 contests of 42.

According to exit polling data, a majority of Democratic voters said Obama is qualified to be commander-in-chief. Most appeared not to believe Clinton campaign claims to the contrary, preferring Obama over Clinton. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (Clinton campaign chair in his state) appeared to break with the campaign's narrative about Obama's qualifications with a comment yesterday that an Obama-Clinton ticket, with Obama as Pres., would work for him.

"We need to come together," he said. Perhaps his feelings are shared by a growing number of voters who support the Democratic Party worried about the possibility that internecine strife could harm the needed unity to win in November.

More than two-in-three Mississippi Democratic voters described Obama as inspiring, while less than half ascribed this characteristic to Clinton.

Seven-in-ten voters see Obama as honest and trustworthy, while only half said the same of Clinton.

By almost 2-to-1, Mississippi Dems said Obama was more likely to defeat McCain in the November election.

On CNN's live TV coverage, Carville predictably downplayed the Mississippi primary results by saying Obama was expected to win, so it doesn't change things. Carville's logic begs the question of why Clinton's expected victories in each of the states she has won – she led in the polls in each of the states she won since she stepped into the race – makes a case for her being a stronger candidate?

Supporters of Barack Obama argue that any Democrat would win states like California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, but the battlegrounds will be in states that Obama carried: Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington, Iowa, and Colorado.

Carville did make a strong point that the diversity of people who vote for Democrats sharply contrasts with the lily whiteness of the Republican Party's leading figures.

In their coverage, CNN reporters and pundits discussed the racial identity of voters quite a bit. CNN anchor Soledad O'Brian said, "Race will be the dominate theme in this race," referring to Mississippi. But the entire subtext of media coverage was that Mississippi matters little in the race for the nomination because more than half of its Democratic voters are Black.

This easy dismissal just doesn't explain his landslide victory in Wyoming last Saturday, or Wisconsin, or Minnesota, or Virginia, etc.

Only Donna Brazile seemed to challenge this narrative by arguing that it is a good thing that Black voters are turning out to the polls in huge numbers and are excited by the possibility of selecting not just an African American but someone who can beat John McCain in November and bring real change to the country. That is good for the Democratic Party, she opined.

It is a great thing.

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