Wright Saps Obama’s White Vote

Amanda Carpenter
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Posted: May 07, 2008 12:00 AM

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama lost the white vote by dramatic margins to rival Hillary Clinton in Indiana and North Carolina’s primary contests Tuesday

The decrease in support from white, working class voters may be attributed to Obama’s suggestion that “bitter” Americans “cling” to guns and religion and his refusal to support the suspension of the federal gas tax to offset the rising price of gasoline, but is widely interpreted as backlash for closely associating with the controversial black pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Obama overwhelmingly North Carolina, largely by the black vote which he dominated 91 percent, but only carried 26 percent of the white vote.

Clinton won Indiana, securing 60 percent of white Democratic primary voters to Obama’s 40 percent. It’s worth noting Obama won 92 percent of black Democrats in Indiana, where the black population is considerably smaller than North Carolina.

Indianans and North Carolinians went to the polls with Wright on their minds. According to exit polls, 46 percent of Indiana Democratic primary voters said Wright was “important.” 72 percent of those voters voted for Clinton. In North Carolina, 47 percent of Democratic primary voters said Wright was “important.” 59 percent of those voters voted for Clinton.

Indiana and North Carolina’s primary votes were inundated with Wright-related media coverage in the run-up to the May 6 primaries. Wright reinvigorated national interest in his relationship with Obama by making major appearances on PBS, before the NAACP and the National Press Club the week before the contests. During those events he reiterated some of his most offensive remarks captured in his video sermons. After Wright’s media tour concluded Obama denounced his former pastor ending his 20-year relationship with the man who led him to God, married him and baptized his two children.

The project for Excellence in Journalism found 42 percent of news media stories focused on Wright in the week from April 28 to May 4.

Right-leaning media outlets had long questioned Obama’s church, which Wright recently retired from, for preaching “black liberation theology” and boasting an “unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian” motto that encourages blacks to disavow “the pursuit of middleclassness.” It wasn’t until Wright’s video sermons were made public in mid-March by ABC News, however, that Wright became a national story

Obama has suffered a dramatic loss of support from uneducated white voters nationally since the Wright scandal broke, according to the Pew Research Center. Before Wright’s sermons were released, white Democratic voters who had not attended college supported Clinton 50 percent, Obama 40 percent. ABC News released tapes of Wright’s most controversial sermons on March 13 and those videos had immediate impact. Pew’s April poll showed only 25 percent of white Democratic voters supporting Obama and Clinton netting a whopping 65 percent—a 40 point edge of Obama among that demographic.

Obama’s inability to capture the undereducated white vote presents major obstacle in the general election, should he secure the Democratic nomination. In the 2004 presidential election, white voters represented 77 percent of all voters and 58 percent of total voters had no college degree.