Are Hillary Voters Racist?

Barack Obama's big loss to Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary led Adam Nagourney to wonder whether opposition to Obama's coronation is race-based.

Admittedly, it's somewhat refreshing to see a liberal organ like the Times question the racial bona fides of white Democrats the way they always do with white Republicans, it's still galling for Nagourney to question the racial motivations of anyone who votes against the most liberal senator in the U.S. Senate.

Nagourney wrote in a Thursday front-page story:

Is the Democratic Party hesitating about race as it moves to the brink of nominating an African-American to be president?

Mr. Obama remains ahead of Mrs. Clinton in delegates, in the popular vote and in national polls, and Mrs. Clinton certainly has her own problems trying to herd Democrats into her corner.

But just when it seemed that the Democratic Party was close to anointing Mr. Obama as its nominee, he lost yet again in a big general election state, dragged down by his weakness among blue-collar voters, older voters and white voters. The composition of Mrs. Clinton's support - or, looked at another way, the makeup of voters who have proved reluctant to embrace Mr. Obama - has Democrats wondering, if not worrying, about what role race may be playing.

So Clinton supporters are merely voting against Obama?

Nagourney finally suggested some substantive reasons people might not be behind Obama:

It is also hard to discount that Mr. Obama has arrived at this place in his candidacy after winning big victories in very white states. The crowds at his rallies are as white as any at a Clinton rally, and many analysts in both parties believe that racial attitudes in this country are changing at a breakneck pace, particularly among younger voters, making it risky to impose models from even four years ago on this unusual election.

Complicating things even further are the high-profile episodes that have rattled his campaign.

His remark at a private fundraiser in San Francisco about bitter blue-collar workers "clinging" to guns and religion was the kind of assertion that would be damaging to a candidate of any race. Inflammatory statements by Mr. Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who is black, have been seized on by Republicans to present Mr. Obama as unpatriotic. An advertisement released by Republicans in North Carolina on Wednesday included that portrayal.

The statement by Mr. Obama's wife, Michelle, that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country," has been invoked by Republicans in an effort to portray Mr. Obama as culturally unlike the people he is asking to vote for him, a historically potent line of attack.


For Mr. Obama, race presents two potential problems: Voters opposing him simply because he is black, and Democrats who will not support him because they do not think a black man can win a general election.

The results in Pennsylvania suggest that problems exist. A poll of Democratic voters conducted by Edison/Mitofsky for the television networks and The Associated Press found that Mrs. Clinton drew 63 percent of the white vote while Mr. Obama drew 90 percent of the black vote, mirroring a pattern in many other states. More strikingly, the poll found that 18 percent of Democrats said that race mattered to them in this contest - and just 63 percent of those voters said they would support Mr. Obama in a general election.

If it's problematic that Clinton won 63% of the white vote, why isn't it a problem that Obama won 90% of the black vote? Yet the Times doesn't see any cause for concern in race-based voting by blacks.