After South Carolina: Can Obama capture a wider swath of voters?
The black vote was key to his decisive win Saturday. To be competitive in the Feb. 5 sweepstakes, he'll need a broader coalition of independents, young people, and affluent whites, analysts say.
With his victory in the South Carolina primary Saturday, Sen. Barack Obama offered convincing proof of his ability to appeal to black voters. But to stay on course for the Democratic nomination when 22 states vote on Feb. 5, analysts say, Senator Obama will need to reach further and wider.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
African-Americans are a big part of the Democratic vote in Georgia, Alabama, and a few other Super Tuesday states. But experts say Obama's fortunes on Feb. 5 will hinge on the groups of voters responsible for his only other win, in Iowa: independents, college students, and well-educated and affluent whites.
Also critical, experts say, will be inland states like Kansas, Colorado, and Minnesota, where many voters are wary of candidates, like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are seen as too partisan. Obama has already picked up a string of heartland endorsements, including those of Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
Senator Clinton, Obama's chief rival, has built her Super Tuesday strategy around four states that account for 44 percent of the delegates up for grabs that day: New York, which she represents in the Senate; New Jersey, next door; Arkansas, where she was first lady; and California, where the largest cache of delegates are in play and where polls show her with a strong lead.
Obama, however, is taking a more piecemeal approach. Because votes in most Democratic contests are awarded proportionally, he will need to make precision strikes within states where Clinton is strong. Cities with many blacks, like New York, and liberal enclaves, like the San Francisco Bay Area, are on his list of targets, as are independents in New Jersey and California.
He is looking for a rout in his delegate-rich home state of Illinois. But he is also courting voters in six states caucusing on Feb. 5 – Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado, Alaska, North Dakota, and Idaho – where an aggressive turnout drive could reprise his success in Iowa.
"In many of these states, our opponents are not engaged in any organizing," Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, blogged earlier this month. "We firmly believe you cannot build a caucus operation in a matter of four weeks, so we are at a decided advantage."
If Obama captures traditionally "red" heartland states on Feb. 5, he will no doubt argue that they reflect his ability to unite voters across the ideological spectrum against a Republican foe in November.
His first campaign stops after his victory Saturday were Georgia and Alabama, states where blacks make up at least 40 percent of the Democratic vote. Clinton was headed for Tennessee, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
A decisive win in South Carolina
In South Carolina Saturday, Obama defeated Clinton 55 percent to 27 percent. A little more than half the voters were black, and Obama took about 80 percent of their vote. Obama drew nearly one-quarter of the white vote, with Clinton and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards about evenly splitting the rest.