Saturday, March 29, 2008

Barack Obama's Achilles Heel

Barack Obama appears likely to be the Democratic nominee for President in 2008. He also looks likely to lose the general election to John McCain. As I will show below, the evidence from a number of primary elections held thus far suggests that Obama's support is concentrated in urban areas and that his performance in suburban areas and small towns, where a large majority of general election votes are cast, is decidedly weak. His weak showing outside of urban areas may play a critical role in several crucial swing states that may well decide the 2008 election. Because Democratic candidates for President in 2000 and 2004 lost these elections as a result of their weak performance outside of urban core areas, it seems curious that Obama's potentially fatal electoral weakness has received as little attention as it has from Democratic party leaders and from media analysts.

The eight states analyzed are colored in grey in the map below:

The eight states include two states that lean Democratic (Maryland and Wisconsin), three potential swing states (Ohio, Missouri and Tennessee) and three states that lean Republican (Alabama, Louisiana and Texas). Maryland and Wisconsin voted Democratic in both 2000 and 2004; George W. Bush carried the remainder of these states in both elections and these electoral votes provided Bush with his margin of victory in both elections.

Barack Obama won the overall vote in these eight states by a slender margin over Hillary Clinton:

However, his share of the vote in the major urban centers of these eight states was lopsided:

At the same time, Hillary Clinton's percentage share of the primary vote in these eight states outside of these urban areas was significantly in her favor:

Obama's problem is that most voters in these eight states live outside of these core urban areas:

More than two-thirds of Deomcratic voters in these eight states live outside of these major urban areas. The percentage of general election voters located outside of these urban core areas is even more lopsided:

Nearly three of four voters in the 2004 general election in these eight states were located outside of these urban core areas. George W. Bush's margin over John Kerry outside of the urban core areas of these eight states was decisive:

Note that Kerry's margin of victory over Bush in the urban core areas of these eight states was 57.3% to 42.7%.

Obama's support outside of urban core areas in three potentially crucial swing states appears especially weak. In Missouri, a state which typically casts its electoral votes for the winning candidate (and which did so in 2004 and 2000), his support outside of core urban areas among Democratic primary voters barely nudged 40%:

John Kerry lost these areas of the state by a 61.3%-38.7% margin in 2004, a showing that cost him Missouri's 11 electoral votes.

Obama's support in these same areas of Ohio was even weaker:

Note that Bush carried these areas of Ohio by a more narrow 54.7%-45.3% margin in 2004. However, this narrow margin was enough to swing the state's 20 electoral votes (and the election) narrowly in his favor.

Obama was crushed by Clinton in Tennessee outside of that state's urban core areas:

Bush defeated Al Gore in these areas of Gore's home state by a 55.5%-44.5% margin in 2000. This showing overcame Gore's 57.9%-42.1% advantage in the state's urban core areas and narrowly delivered the state (and the election) to Bush.

In contrast to the struggles of the 2000 and 2004 Democratic candidates in these states, Bill Clinton won all three of these swing states, and the election, in both 1992 and 1996.

U.S. Presidential elections are ultimately decided in the suburbs and smaller cities. While urban upper-middle class liberal Whites and urban Blacks are overwhelming supporting Obama in the Democratic primaries, Obama's showing among more moderate suburban and small town voters thus far appears tepid. This trend is likely to continue in another swing state, Pennsylvania, that will cast its votes on April 22nd. This suggests that Obama faces an uphill climb to win the presidency if he does in fact win the Democratic party Presidential nomination. It is astonishing to this writer that a candidate with such a fundamental weakness as Obama's is not facing more scrutiny from Democratic party leaders who continue to ebb towards his campaign.


Below is a table showing the cities (actually the counties in which these cities are located) used in the analysis.

The analysis made use of election data found in Dave Leip's incomparable U.S. Presidential election web site.

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