Bubba's Charm Outshines Michelle in N.C. Small Towns

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: May 06, 2008 1:43 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Bill Clinton has been sent on a "Bubba Tour" of the Tarheel State's rural areas, and has managed not to mess up in 49 stops. Could his performance, especially when contrasted with Michelle Obama's boost turnout in Hillary's key demographic?

That's my column for the day:
Bill Clinton evoked the Comeback Kid of old Monday, urging the people of North Carolina to carry his wife to a surprising win on Tuesday. His manner, the crowds he’s pulled, and the sheer number of his stops suggests Clinton may have, at long last, become the asset he was meant to be on the trail—tireless, cheery and charming in the face of substantial odds. Indeed, 49 stops in N.C. without saying something counterproductive and off-message is an accomplishment in itself for the politician formerly known as a master communicator.

He stopped in Sanford, a Sandhills town that hadn’t seen a president since Truman. He stopped in Roxboro, where he reportedly spoke to 2,000 in a town of only 9,000. They are the places where Hillary’s base lives, in Appalachia and along the so-called “Poverty Belt” of southern North Carolina where mill closings and hard times make Hillary’s bread-and-butter message more palpable than Obama’s lofty rhetoric.
Obama and Michelle, not so much with the rural areas:
For his part, Obama hasn’t ventured west of Hickory, just an hour northwest of Charlotte, where Obama’s big-city voters dwell in droves. Bill also stands in stark contrast to Obama’s closest surrogate, Michelle, who spoke extensively in Fayetteville and Charlotte today without cracking a smile at either event. The local evening news showed Clinton’s preternatural, gee-golly glad-hand routine next to Michelle’s dour, stern-faced lectures about Obama’s greatness. The juxtaposition did the Obamas no favors.
Update: Nonetheless, Bob Owens is calling it for Obama after talking to the N.C. Board of Elections about reportedly overwhelming African-American turnout.

Update:
Tea-leaf reading from Ambinder:
What's a scenario where Clinton wins? Let's award her 65% of the white vote and 18 percent of the black vote, and let's assume that black turnout dips to about 29% of the electorate. Clinton wins here by a half a point.
But this sounds like intentional expectations-lowering from Camp Clinton to me.