Poor economy to blame for Democratic wins
Published 6:43 am Wednesday, December 10, 2008
By By Steve Flowers
As we approach the end of the year, we have had a month to let the dust settle on the historic 2008 election and can now analyze the results that have crystallized.
On the national level, the election of Barack Obama is indeed an historical event. African Americans have rejoiced and reveled in this landmark election. Bill Clinton referred to himself as the first “Black President,” but Obama is the real thing.
In a strange twist of fate, if only a few Iowa caucus goers had selected Hillary Clinton, she would have been President. More than likely, Hillary, Obama or, for that matter, any Democrat would have won the White House in 2008 because 85 percent of Americans believed the country was on the wrong path and 75 percent disapproved of George W. Bush. In addition, the biggest economic collapse in American history since the Great Depression occurred during the height of the campaign. Any one of these crosses would have been too much for a Republican candidate to bear, but with all three strikes against him it was almost impossible to win.
John McCain’s odyssey could be compared to running a 100-yard dash against a younger, faster, more agile competitor with a 100 pound rock strapped to his back. Surprisingly, McCain only lost the national popular vote by seven points, 53 to 46. John McCain was not alone. The entire Republican Party took it on the chin. In addition to losing the White House, they lost six Senate seats and twenty-one House seats.
What can be gleaned from this year’s voting? The presidential race really boiled down to the economy. The situation and results are amazingly similar to 1992 when Bill Clinton wrestled the White House from George Bush, Sr. That year the issue also was the economy. In fact, Clinton’s political guru James Carville coined the famous mantra, “It’s the economy stupid.”
Other revelations also became obvious upon closer scrutiny. America is more progressive on social issues and is becoming more diverse. Obama’s candidacy brought out an unprecedented, once in a lifetime African American turnout. An amazing 80 percent of black voters voted in this year’s election and 98 percent voted for Obama. However, future elections will revolve around the fastest growing segment of our population, the Hispanic vote. This vote tilted the states of Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Florida to Obama and will be vital in years to come.
Surprising to many is the unbelievable accuracy of polling in this year’s presidential contest. The pollsters nailed the race right on the head both nationally and state by state and did so despite the fact that 15 percent of all voters, especially young voters, have only a cell phone which disallows pollsters from reaching these individuals. This preciseness in polling dispels the notion of a Bradley effect when it comes to predicting the performance of a minority candidate.
What about the election in Alabama? The results illuminated the racial divide. McCain carried the mostly white counties by as much as 5 to 1, while Obama carried the primarily black counties by a 9 to 1 margin. Overall McCain carried Alabama 60 to 39 over Obama, which does not bode well for Congressman Artur Davis’ aspirations to run for Governor in 2010.
The entire Republican Party did well in Alabama. All four Republican judges on the ballot won. However, the Democrats enjoyed two razor thin victories. Lucy Baxley captured the Public Service Commission presidency post by 10,000 votes out of two million cast. With Baxley’s addition to the panel, our PSC will be all female and all Democratic. Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright eked out a 1,700 vote victory in a 50/50 battle with State Representative Jay Love. Both parties spent a lot of money to capture this seat, which has been in the Republican column for 44 years. Bright and Baxley owe their elections to the prolific African American turnout for Obama.
Huntsville State Senator Parker Griffith retained the 5th district seat for the Democratic Party. Bud Cramer retired after 18 years. This now makes our Washington contingency in the House four Republicans and three Democrats. With Jeff Sessions capturing his third six-year term with an easy 63 to 37 win, both of our U.S. Senators are Republican. Our senior Senator Richard Shelby runs again in two years in 2010.
It will be interesting to see who President Obama picks for U.S. Attorneys throughout the state and whether these Democratic prosecutors will continue the ongoing probe of pervasive corruption in the Junior College scandal and Jefferson County. It will also be intriguing to see if Obama pardons Don Siegelman.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be contacted at www.steveflowers.us.