Why Obama & Clinton are neck-and-neck

Updated on Feb 28, 2008 03:52 AM IST
Three polls now show Barack Obama is neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in Texas. He has ended a 10 percentage point deficit in less than a fortnight. Pramit Pal Chaudhuri examines.
HT Image
HT Image
Hindustan Times | ByPramit Pal Chaudhuri

Three polls now show Barack Obama is neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton in Texas. He has ended a 10 percentage point deficit in less than a fortnight in the US’s second-largest state. Obama’s most fervent support base remains middle-class whites and black Americans. But he has broken off bits and pieces of Clinton’s supporters: including a third of Latinos and a large chunk of white women voters.

This replicates Super Tuesday, notes Craig Charney, head of polling agency Charney Associates. “Those results were amazing. Obama was way behind Hillary 10 days before the primaries — he gained 10 points nationally in 10 days.”

Ohio and Pennsylvania are moot points. Without Texas, Hillary cannot blunt Obama’s momentum. “Without Texas she’s toast,” said a member of Obama’s policy advisory team recently in India.

When Obama began his backers were rich whites and poor blacks. The former identified with his class, went the line, the latter with his race. He declined to play the race card.

What lies behind his success?

Obama’s theme of change reflects a weariness among Americans for the rabid partisanship of the past 15 years. While the Bush administration is the most tainted, the politics of polarisation began with Bill Clinton. During the past three presidential terms, independent voters shrank from a third of the electorate to barely five per cent. Today, the centre is holding: a quarter of Americans say they are neither Democrat nor Republican.

The surfeit of ideology, from both left and right, is now blamed for a whole host of ills: a war gone bad, an economy in trouble, political correctness gone wild and a national leadership that can’t lead. It’s not just about Bush, it’s about how Washington works. George W Bush’s approval rating is an abysmal 33.7 per cent, but the Democratic-controlled Congress’s is 24 per cent.

Obama has tarred and feathered Hillary as part of “the system that doesn’t work” and she’s hasn’t been able to shake the establishment tag. Independent voters — those least likely to distinguish between Clintons and Bushes — flocked to Obama’s banner in the primaries. Obama likes to say “this country is more than a collection of red states and blue states,” referring to colours used to identify conservative and liberal political leanings.

The message alone would be insufficient. Obama also gets it spread with a well-oiled political machine. Clinton failed to build a grassroots network to get out the vote and raise money. In almost every primary, Obama has had more local campaign offices and more staff on the ground than she has had.

The unelected superdelegates hold the balance of power. Says Bruce Riedel, a former Clinton administration official, now at the Brookings Institute, “Her support in the establishment is built on the expectation of victory.” And that is now history.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Indian-British author Salman Rushdie.

    Salman Rushdie off ventilator and 'road to recovery has begun,' agent says

    Salman Rushdie, the acclaimed author who was hospitalized on Friday with serious injuries after being repeatedly stabbed at a public appearance in New York state, is off a ventilator and his condition is improving, his agent and a son said on Sunday. One of Rushdie's sons said his father remained in critical condition but was able to say a few words after getting off the ventilator.

  • US Representative John Garamendi (L) shaking hands with Taiwanese diplomat Douglas Yu-tien Hsu upon his arrival at Sungshan Airport in Taipei. (Photo by Handout/MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS/AFP)

    US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan amid China tensions

    The de facto US embassy in Taipei said the delegation is being led by Senator Ed Markey, who is being accompanied by four other lawmakers on what it described as part of a larger visit to the Indo-Pacific region.

  • Taliban fighters fire in air to disperse Afghan women protesters in Kabul.

    EU scolds Taliban after crackdown on women's rally

    The EU on Sunday said it was "particularly concerned" about worsening conditions for women and girls in Afghanistan after the country's ruling Taliban violently broke up a women's rally. Taliban fighters on Saturday fired in the air and beat up protesters taking part in a women's "bread, work and freedom" march in Kabul. It also stressed that "Afghanistan must also not pose a security threat to any country" per UN Security Council resolutions.

  • Security members stand at the scene where a deadly fire broke out at the Abu Sifin church in Giza, Egypt.

    41 killed in fire at Cairo Coptic church: Officials

    A fire that broke out Sunday in a Coptic Christian church in Egypt's capital Cairo killed 41 people, church officials said. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared on his Facebook page that "I have mobilised all state services to ensure that all measures are taken". Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, making up at least 10 million of Egypt's 103 million people. Egypt has suffered several deadly fires in recent years.

  • Smoke rises from Surmalu market about two kilometers (1.2 miles) south of the center Yerevan, Armenia.

    One dead, 20 injured in explosion at Armenian market

    An explosion at a retail market in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Sunday sparked a fire, killing one person and injuring 20, the emergency situations ministry said. Photos and videos posted on social media showed a thick column of black smoke over the market and successive detonations could be heard. The ministry said there were 10 firefighting trucks on the spot and another 10 were on their way.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, August 15, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now