Thursday, January 31, 2008
On this day:

Obama strong in Alabama

According to a recent poll, Barack Obama has taken a 5-point lead over Hillary Clinton among those likely to vote in next week's Democratic primary. The main reason for Obama's success appears to be that large numbers of black Democrats have recently switched their preference from Clinton to Obama.
(B'ham News) Potential black voters have surged to Obama's side, according to a poll by Capital Survey Research Center, the polling arm of the Alabama Education Association. Their latest poll, which includes data through Tuesday night, shows Obama with 68 percent of the vote among likely black voters, up from 54 percent three weeks ago and more than double the 26 percent of likely black voters who said a year ago they would support Obama.

Clinton's support among likely black voters has plummeted from a high in September of 41 percent to 16 percent in the latest Capital Survey poll. ...

Obama's support from white voters has slipped by 1 percentage point from earlier this month and is now at 17 percent. Clinton's support has increased by 4 percentage points and now stands at 51 percent.
If I had to guess, I'd say that the outcome of the Democratic primary in Alabama will look very much like it did in South Carolina. Even in a run-of-the-mill primary election, about half of the state's Democratic voters are black. Needless to say, this year's election is different, and Obama's candidacy will undoubtedly produce a bigger than usual turnout among black voters.

So, let me beat Bill Clinton to the punch. Jesse Jackson won the Democratic primary in Alabama in 1984 and 1988, just as he did in South Carolina. Barack Obama will do the same in 2008, but he'll do it in a one-on-one race and he'll do it with significant help from white Democrats. Barack Obama is no Jesse Jackson.

One wild-card in all of this is that Alabama has an open primary. Voters are not officially registered by party; they declare their party preference on election day at the polling station.

Since Democrats in Alabama tend to be of the moderate-to-conservative variety, and since there is no center-right Democratic candidate in the running, it seems likely that significant numbers of Democrats will choose to vote in the Republican primary this year - probably for John McCain.

Independents tend to be either on the fringes or in the middle. The fringe voters (which include far-left socialists, far-right kooks, and forever-disgruntled libertarians) will probably stay at home shouting, sulking, and contemplating utopia, like they always do. No harm done there. The straddle-the-fence moderates will mostly split their votes between the two candidates - Obama and McCain - who have pledged to bring an end to "politics as usual." Self-described moderates may have no earthly idea what ending "politics as usual" would actually mean, just that it sounds good. And this year, Obama and McCain sound pretty good.

The upshot is that next Tuesday in Alabama will be a good day for John McCain and an even better one for Barack Obama.