Leftist racism infects Dem primary campaign

... On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton now has a slight but real edge coming out of Nevada. Here is what we know. Hillary Clinton won narrowly in the overall vote among Nevada Democrats, thanks to a huge edge among Latinos as they contemplated voting for a black man. But she lost amongst the overall tally of national convention delegates, as rural Nevada whites proved more than ready to vote for a black guy.

Obama needs to solve the chronic black/brown divide in the Democratic Party. Part of Hillary’s edge with the Latino vote in Nevada is due to strong campaigning. She has strong Latino backers, such as LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, and United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta. But part of her edge seems due to racial politics.

The Nevada Democratic caucuses saw a massive turnout of participants, nearly 120,000, which is well over even what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had hoped for. “Today’s caucus was a tremendous success,” said the pumped up, usually phlegmatic Nevadan. “Well over 100,000 Nevadans got out and made their voices heard, including 69 in my hometown of Searchlight.”

Clinton beat Obama by nearly 3 to 1 among Latinos. Which was quite interesting, in that Obama was backed by two potent unions with many Latino members, the culinary workers and the service employees. But the turnout at the at-large caucus sites, casinos along the Las Vegas Strip, which were set up to allow lower-income casino workers to participate while working a busy holiday weekend — this is Martin Luther King Day weekend in Vegas, a big-time holiday there — was less than expected. And Clinton confounded expectations, essentially matching Obama along the Vegas Strip and sweeping to a big win in the Las Vegas metropolitan area.

This more than matched Obama’s wins in most of Nevada’s other counties. Hillary’s ability to win big among Latinos, even when many of their leaders, such as in the unions I mentioned, went with Obama, raises very interesting questions about the internal racial politics of the Democratic Party as the first very serious black candidate for president continues his closely fought contest with the former first lady. Reports from around the state indicate that the big labor forces backing Obama found it tough to deliver for him. At issue, Latino workers pushed to vote for an African American. And so the race issue reared its head in yet another way this year.

If Obama can’t do much better with Latino voters, he won’t be able to win the California primary, the biggest prize on February 5th. Hillary leads here and has a strong organization, but independents voters — who generally favor Obama — are shut out of the Republican primary and could give him a big boost.

He has time to rethink his approach on Latinos, since this week’s contest, the Saturday primary in South Carolina, doesn’t have many Latinos. Perhaps half the vote will be African American, and there Obama has overtaken the Clintons’ longstanding edge. Hillary led for a long time in South Carolina, but now Obama has the lead. He needs a sizable win to stay in the race with the formidable Clinton political machine.

Speaking of the Clintons, another fascinating thing to watch this week will be the behavior of the former president. He’s gotten very aggressive in promoting his wife’s candidacy, attacking Obama personally, getting visibly upset with a TV reporter questioning him about the lawsuit he backed to block those at-large caucuses on the Las Vegas Strip.

Unfortunately, I missed his performance on Saturday when he personally campaigned inside a caucus site at the Mirage on the Vegas Strip. I wish I could have beamed over there to see it.

Old friend and colleague Marc Cooper was there, and reports that Clinton, accompanied by longtime fundraising honcho Terry McAuliffe, the ex-Democratic national chairman, aggressively buttonholed the various maids and bellhops gathering to cast their caucus votes. Some were apparently intimidated.

Clinton is certainly behaving in an unusual way for a president of the United States. I don’t remember former President Bush attacking John McCain when his son was running in 2000. But politics ain’t beanbag, and its safe to say that Bill Clinton really does want Hillary to win.


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