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News: Updated Jan. 27

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News from the Votemaster


Don't expect to see that headline anywhere. It's much too racist. But it is actually (and unfortunately) true (see below for the demographics). Nevertheless, Barack Obama won a huge victory yesterday in South Carolina. According to the NY Times the vote went as follows:

Candidate Vote Pct
Barack Obama 295,091 55.4%
Hillary Clnton 141,128 26.5%
John Edwards 93,552 17.6%

Clinton won Horry County, the pointy little county in the far east of the state (around Myrtle Beach); Edwards won Oconee County, the pointy little county in the far west of the state; Obama won all the other 44 counties. Oconee and Horry are two of the three whitest counties in the state. Still, by any measure it was a landslide victory for Obama. The number of actual delegates won by each candidate is not clear yet due to the Democratic party's rules in which 29 delegates are allocated proportionally in each of the six congressional districts, 16 are allocated based on the statewide vote, two are the states's Democratic congressmen, six are the state's DNC representatives, and one will be elected at a statewide convention to take place May 3. As an aside, almost all Democratic primaries use formulas analogous to this one. Among other things, it means that about 20% of the delegates will be unpledged going into the convention. The South Carolina Republican primary (and most coming Republican primaries) are winner-take-all contests. The guy with the most votes wins all the delegates.

Now onto the exit polls. Obama got 54% of the men's vote and 54% of the women's vote. Clinton got 23% of the men's vote and 30% of the women's vote. By age, Obama won all age groups, but was strongest in the 18-29 year-old segment (67%) and weakest in the 60+ segment (38%). Clinton came in second in all age groups and came closest in the 60+ group with 35% of the vote. Education didn't seem to matter; college-educated and noncollege-educated broke the same as the statewide totals. By income, Obama did best among the voters making less than $50,000 (57%) and worst among those making over $100,000 (46%). Surprisingly, Edwards did worst (15%) among the people below $50,000 and roughly the same in all the other categories (22-26%). For a guy running a populist campaign, that must be disappointing. Here he is shouting himself hoarse about how he wants to help the Americans who need the most help and they don't like him.

Now the biggie: race. An astounding 55% of the voters were black and 78% of them went for Obama, 19% went for Clinton (likely black women), and a mere 2% went for Edwards. Among white voters, Edwards won the primary with 40% of the vote to Clinton's 36% and Obama's 24%. Thus among the white voters, 76% went for Clinton or Edwards. These data explain the surprising way the voters broke by income. A large number of poor blacks voted. Did they vote for the black candidate or the candidate who wants to help the poor? They voted overwhemingly for the black candidate, even though he tends to draw most of his support nationally from well-educated, upper-income white voters. In other words, race trumps income.

From Obama's perspective, this is not good news since in the big delegate-rich states voting on Feb. 5, blacks might make up 20% of the primary voters at best. From Clnton's perspective, any loss is painful, but the South Carolina electorate differs so much from the upcoming ones that it is doubtful this loss will cost her many votes in New York and California. The rest of the breakdowns are given on the NYT page referenced above.

If Obama becomes the nominee, and that is still a real possibility, it is absolutely critical that he avoid having the contest be framed as white vs. black. He loses that one. His winning formula is youth vs. age. This is especially potent against McCain, who would be the oldest President in history. Basically, his whole campaign has to be based on one idea: McCain's too old. It even fits nicely on a bumper sticker. Earlier polls have shown that while some voters have a problem with a black candidate and others have a problem with a woman candidate, a whopping 46% have a problem with a 72-year-old candidate. Obama has to convince the voters that he is the reincarnation of Jack Kennedy. The late President's daughter, Caroline Kennedy, supports Obama. She could play a leading role in "Camelot: The Sequel." It could work.

At this point, it looks like (barring another unforeseen development in a contest already full of unforeseen developments) the Democratic nominee will be Clinton or Obama. If Edwards couldn't win his home state and a state he won in 2004, it seems unlikely he can win most of the big states on Feb. 5. It could easily happen (in fact, is likely) that Feb. 5 will not end the Democratic race. Both Clinton and Obama will come out with lots of delegates and the race will continue.

On the Republican side, Huckabee's failure to win South Carolina last week, a state chock-a-block with evangelical churches, doesn't bode well for him in relatively church-free states like California and New York. So probably the GOP nominee will be McCain or Romney. Working on this assumption, Scott Rasmussen ran national head-to-head polls on all four combinations. Here are the results:

Democrat Dem pct Republican Republican pct
Hillary Clinton 47% John McCain 45%
Hillary Clinton 47% Mitt Romney 42%
Barack Obama 46% John McCain 41%
Barack Obama 47% Mitt Romney 38%

It is awfully early so don't put a lot of faith in these polls yet.

The next event is Florida on Tuesday. None of the Democrats are campaigning there. In contrast, McCain and Romney are fighting very hard for it. Whoever wins will probably go into Feb. 5 as the front runner. If Giuliani wins in an Obama-like landslide, he might become a factor again. But chances are, the guy who was leading all year can go back to making millions as a security consultant. If Huckabee does well in Florida (say, a solid third place) he goes into Feb. 5 with a real chance of winning many southern states. If he pulls that off, he's Mr. Veep.

The polling results for all states are available as a Web page and in .csv format.

CNN is keeping track of the delegates for the Democrats and for the Republicans. Note that other sources may differ because CNN is trying to count the PLEOs (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) and when different reporters call a PLEO and hear "Well, I like Hillary, but Barack has his charms too" they may score it differently. Here is CNN's count:


Clinton 230 Obama 152 Edwards 61     Needed: 2025
Romney 73 McCain 38 Huckabee 29 Paul 6 Giuliani 2 Needed: 1191

-- The Votemaster
WWW www.electoral-vote.com