Pew study: If Obama is candidate, some Dems may vote McCain

Was reading Justin Webb‘s latest blog post today, and he links to a National Journal article which in turn cites a recent Pew Research Center study, dated February 28, 2008:

Summary of Findings: Obama Has The Lead, But Potential Problems Too

I found this bit particularly interesting:

Although attention has been focused on McCain’s problems with the GOP base, there are indications that some Democrats might defect if Obama is the party’s nominee. Overall, 20% of white Democratic voters say they would vote for McCain if Obama is the Democratic nominee. That is twice the percentage of white Democrats who say they would support McCain in a Clinton-McCain matchup. Older Democrats (ages 65 and older), lower-income and less educated Democrats also would support McCain at higher levels if Obama rather than Clinton is the party’s nominee.

Justin Webb asks if this is “Racism or educationism?”

It’s a good question and tough to call. I would, personally, argue that less-educated people (not just Democrats) would be more susceptible to making racially-based judgements, so it’s probably a little bit of both. Then again, is it really a surprise? What the study does not consider (or at least, was not considered in the published report) is the widespread concern (yes, there is one) that Sen Obama, with his flawless poise, could go the way of two people he has been compared to – Dr Martin Luther King Jr and former President John F. Kennedy. It is still possible that out of concern for him, some people would rather vote Sen McCain over Sen Obama.

Other interesting findings include one about Sen McCain’s age:

Nearly a third of all voters (32%) believe that, at 71 years old, McCain is too old to be president, while 66% say that being 71 does not make him too old. Opinions about whether McCain is too old to be president are comparable with views about Bob Dole during the 1996 campaign. In March 1996, 34% said Dole, who would have been 73 upon inauguration, was too old, while 63% said he was not.

Arguably Sen McCain would be a single-term president at his age. However, surely you should be judging people based on whether they’re qualified for the job or not? My personal opinion is that Sen McCain is more qualified than Sen Obama, and I would hope his age doesn’t count against him. Even a single-term presidency for Sen McCain would be better than a half-term for Sen Obama, especially when we start talking about foreign affairs and the War in Iraq – which I will get to now.

Pew findings about War in Iraq
(Graphic: Pew Research Center)

This certainly suggests that the American public do feel that things are improving in Iraq. Since the military troop surge, security and safety in Iraq has improved slightly. Although suicide bombings and kidnappings continue, they certainly are not at the rate as they were in 2004.

If you ask most Iraqis, many of them want the Americans to stay put. Some of them, including the government in Baghdad, want the Americans to help with Iraq’s development. Others say the U.S. should finish what it started in a “you came here and wrecked this place, you stay here and clean it up” kind of way.

On last week’s BBC Radio 4 From Our Own Correspondent programme, the BBC’s Hugh Sykes in Baghdad interviewed Baghdad residents over the electricity issue – there is just not enough power in the country. And, as with any report about Iraq, the story touched on terrorism. One respondent told him, “If America leaves, there will be a massacre.”

That’s where the American Presidential race comes back into play. As we all know, both Sens Obama and Clinton want troops out of Iraq and have promised to start withdrawing troops if elected. Sen McCain backed the troop surge and would likely keep a fairly sizeable number of forces stationed in the country.

It’s the United States that is maintaining security in the region right now, not Iraq. If the U.S. withdraw, widespread violence could easily spill over into neighbouring countries, and the price of oil – already at a record high $109 – could easily spike further. It appears to me Sen Obama and Sen Clinton are oblivious to this.

Back to the Pew study. Sen Obama, very obviously, has the lead; the report says “70% of Democratic voters — including 52% of those who support Clinton — say that Obama is most likely to win the Democratic presidential nomination.” Unfortunately for the Democrats, with Florida and Michigan both making noise now and senior leaders unlikely to want to alienate voters in both states, this contest is, in truth, far from over…


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