Yet more on working class whites

Democratic pollster Mark Mellman had a great op-ed in the Times last week making a strong, data-driven (and amazingly concise) case that Obama does not have a particular problem with white, working-class voters.  That is, no more of a problem with white, working class voters than the Democrat's previous two nominees.  Given that Al Gore won the popular vote and Kerry suffered a fairly narrow loss, holding even with these voters and a little bit of expansion of other parts of the electorate should be more than enough.  The key take-home points:

First, there
is no relationship between how candidates perform among any particular
group of voters in primaries and how they do with that segment in the
general election. In 1992, Bill Clinton lost college-educated voters to
Paul Tsongas in the early competitive primaries, but he went on to win
that group in November by the largest margin any Democrat ever had.
Similarly, John Kerry lost young voters in the competitive primaries in
2004 before going on to win them by a record margin in the general

Second, Democrats running for president have been
losing white, non-college-educated voters since before Mr. Obama was
elected to the Illinois legislature. Al Gore and Mr. Kerry each failed
to win a majority of this bloc in the general election. With these
voters, the size of the losing margin is what matters.

Mr. Gore
lost them by 17 percentage points while winning the national popular
vote. Mr. Kerry lost them by 23 points and the country by fewer than
two and a half points. The last Democrat to win white, non-college
voters was Bill Clinton, who carried them by a single point in the
three-way races in 1992 and 1996.

By comparison, Mr. Obama is
only two percentage points behind John McCain among these voters in the
latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Another recent survey shows him
down seven points.

In other words, Mr. Obama is faring better today with the white working class than did either Mr. Gore or Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Obama leads Mr. McCain in almost every national poll published this
month, he cannot afford to take any constituency for granted. But he
plainly has a path to victory. And the white working class does not
seem poised to block his way.

Now that Mellman has had this widely-read op-ed, it will be quite interesting to see if the pundit class is willing to put Obama's standing with these voters in the appropriate historical context, or continue to pretend as if it is a fatal flaw to his campaign.  Actually, this suggests a simple pundit test: smart pundits will get this point, dumb ones will not (don't expect a lot of mention of it on Fox news).

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