Barack Obama trounced Hillary Clinton last night by a massive margin. However, Dick Morris, a man who worked with the Clintons for years, has an interesting contrarian view of the Clinton’s strategy:
Ultimately, the Clintons are playing a game of jujitsu with Obama, using his own strength against him.
By challenging Obama for the black vote – by promising to go door to door in South Carolina in minority neighborhoods, for example – Bill is highlighting the question: Will Obama carry the black vote? Of course, he will. He leads, 4 to 1, among African-Americans now.
But by making that the central question, Obama’s South Carolina victory will be hailed as proof that he won the African-American vote. Such block voting will trigger the white backlash Sen. Clinton needs to win.
Once whites see blacks voting en masse for a black man, they will figure that it is a racial game and line up for Hillary. Already, she carries white voters by 2 to 1.
The Clintons can well afford to lose South Carolina as long as the election is not seen as a bellwether of how the South will vote but as an indication of how African-Americans will go. It’s a small price to pay for the racial polarization they need to win.
Sure enough, the story is how Obama carried the black vote.
As often as Dick Morris gets it wrong, he seems to be on to the Clinton strategy. Right now Barack Obama has two constituencies: well-off whites and blacks. Hillary Clinton is peeling away women, low-income voters, union members and other traditional Democratic groups. It’s a simple matter of numbers: Clinton can win with the groups on her side, and Obama can’t.
This loss certainly doesn’t look good for Hillary Clinton—she got creamed by Obama—but ultimately time (and the byzantine Democratic primary process) is on her side. The Clintons are masters of political hardball, as well as divide-and-conquer politics. They know full well that all they need to do is split the vote along racial lines and they can win—and it’s not like black voters will cross over and vote Republican in the general election.
Obama won a major victory tonight—but it could end up being a Pyrrhic one. Obama must broaden his appeal beyond racial and class lines, and so far he’s been unable to do it. The demographic tide going into Super Tuesday doesn’t favor him, and while he’s dinged Clinton’s armor twice now, he’s yet to slay the beast.