Thursday, February 14, 2008

Race and Gender Matter

Race and Gender Matter
By Jerome Grossman

The Democrats have a number of core constituencies: women, organized labor, African-Americans, liberals and Hispanics. Ideally, to satisfy all power centers in the party, a Democratic president would like to have five vice-presidents to represent the interests of each group but the Constitution is in the way so they are usually placed in the president's cabinet.

In the talent pool for the current campaign, the Democrats have produced two superior candidates, an African-American and a woman, both trying to break the historic monopoly enjoyed by white men. Their rise to leadership seems to signal a change in American attitudes toward women and people of color. Have we transcended race and gender in America? Is that why the Democrats have brought twice as many voters to the polls as the GOP and raised far more money?

The Republicans will have a problem remaining competitive whether the Democrats nominate Obama or Clinton. They already have a 71-year-old white man, who looks the part, at the top of the ticket. The American fetish with youth and especially with the celebrity culture requires a stunningly original choice to confuse the opposition as well as the voters.

If a woman and a black are capturing all those primary votes in every state and raising so many millions of dollars, the GOP can get into the act by presenting to the nation a candidate for vice- president who is a twofer, both a woman and an African-American - Condoleezza Rice. As Secretary of State, the former national security adviser, professor and concert pianist has the experience and savoir faire to attract the celebrity conscious U.S. public. Her link with unpopular President Bush is a negative she already shares with John McCain. She would bring an unusual combination of youth and experience to the GOP ticket and could become a star if she told us what went wrong with U.S. foreign policy and how she would repair it. And from an insider’s perspective, it might be sensational and irresistible.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lessons of Super Tuesday

Lessons of Super Tuesday
By Jerome Grossman

In the presidential primaries on Super Tuesday, February 5, a mass of statistics was produced in the exit polls that weighed heavily on the basic forces colliding in the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, forces that will also affect the November election.

In California, the Hispanic/Latino vote was Clinton 69, Obama 29; the Black vote was Obama 78, Clinton 19. In Massachusetts, the black vote was Obama 66, Clinton 29; the Hispanic vote was Clinton 56, Obama 36. In New Jersey the black vote was Obama 82, Clinton 14; the Hispanic vote, Clinton 68, Obama 30. Most of the other states had similar voting patterns.

Part of the reason for this pattern of voting can be ascribed to black loyalty to Obama, another part to the long relationship between Clinton and the Hispanic community. However, some believe that another powerful factor is the negative consequence of immigration, particularly Hispanic immigration, on the employment rate and wages of the African- American community, creating a tension between the two constituencies as they compete for jobs, housing, etc.

Another important electoral statistic was gleaned from the following question asked in the exit polls: Which candidate has the right experience to be president? In all states, those won by Obama as well as those won by Clinton, the numbers overwhelmingly favored Clinton by margins of more than nine to one. On the other three questions about who can bring about change, who cares about people like me, who has the best chance in November, both candidates were competitive.

The lessons from the exit polls are clear. Obama is showing great political talent and is gaining popular acceptance. Clinton should invest more energy in the Latino community as the upside potential for her is large. Clinton should emphasize her experience as a prime qualification even more then she already has. That factor appears to be the main Obama political weakness and is likely to be a prime theme for the McCain campaign should Obama win the nomination. Lack of experience joined with concerns about national security and McCain’s military record is likely be the prime Republican theme in the November general election, not only against Obama but also against Hillary for her lack of military experience.

Do these factors translate into victory for McCain in November? Not necessarily, but they make him competitive. President Bush leaves office in a difficult financial year for most Americans. The incumbent party has lost in three of the four elections since 1904 that have coincided with recessions (1920, 1932, and 1960). 2008 is likely to be another.


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