Obama cuts into Hillary’s base

Hillary Rodham Clinton has set up Texas and Ohio as her firewall, but the results from Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama’s most recent victories give her plenty of reason to worry it will hold up.

Obama won sweeping victories in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia on Tuesday, cutting into her lead among her most reliable base voters and adding to a glut of bad news for Clinton. Combine the shake-up of her senior campaign staff, the candidate’s $5 million loan to keep her campaign afloat, her eight straight losses in the past week and there’s not much that makes Clinton look like a winning candidate. That’s counting the prospect of more losses next week in Obama’s native Hawaii and in Wisconsin, next door to the Illinois senator’s adopted state.

Clinton should not be counted out, however. She’s overcome expectations twice already in this primary with wins in New Hampshire and Nevada that revived her when she looked like she might be on the way out. If she’s able to win delegate-rich Texas and Ohio, she will be back.

But her strategy is reminiscent of another New Yorker who once was a front-runner for the 2008 presidential nomination. Republican Rudy Giuliani also argued he could survive a month of losses and then come back in Florida, but by the time that vote came all the momentum had shifted away from him.

Clinton has been confident about her chances in Texas and Ohio next month because they fit her pattern of victory — they are primary states where she has the support of leading elected officials. Many of the voters in those states are from her base — older or lower income or white or Hispanic or, of course, women.

But exit surveys conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks during Obama’s overwhelming victories Tuesday showed she can’t rely on those groups any more.

Clinton’s campaign can’t explain Obama’s win as a black thing, since most of the voters in the two states are white. The two split the white vote in Virginia evenly, while Clinton won with that group in Maryland by 10 percentage points. Before Tuesday, Clinton had clearly defeated Obama among whites in all but three states with Democratic primaries, and had a 14 percentage point advantage with white voters in those prior contests combined.

She can’t object to the process being a caucus instead of a more representative primary. All three contests were primaries, and he won all three by more than 20 percentage points.

Obama won all income groups in both states and all age categories in Virginia, while Clinton ran even with him among those 60 and older in Maryland. While the Obama campaign boasted that they won the Latino vote in Virginia, the number of Hispanics participating in the poll was too low to draw any broad conclusions.

Clinton still wins women, the core of her support, but Obama cut into her lead. In Virginia, Clinton won among white females by just 9 percentage points. Her margin was twice that in Maryland, but still below the even bigger advantage she is accustomed to from that group.


Nedra Pickler covers the Democratic presidential campaign for The Associated Press.