Friday, March 7, 2008

McCainocrats vs. Obamacans?

The two new political demographics — like Soccer moms and NASCAR dads before them — are quickly emerging as the potential election-busters of the 2008 presidential race.

And contrary to conventional wisdom, numbers emerging from polls and primary results show that Sen. John McCain — who has alienated conservatives as he courts independents and moderate Democrats — holds an advantage over Sen. Barack Obama in the race for crossover votes.

There are now more McCainocrats than Obamacans — about 14 percent of Democrats say they would vote for Mr. McCain today instead of Mr. Obama, but just 8 percent of Republicans say they would vote for the Illinois Democrat, according to a Pew Research Center survey on Feb. 28.

Additionally, 20 percent of white Democratic voters say they would defect to Mr. McCain if Mr. Obama is the Democratic Party’s nominee — twice the number who would cross over if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the nomination, Pew found.

“McCain poses a clear and present danger to Obama in that he draws Democrat base support in historic numbers,” said Republican strategist Scott Reed.

While Mrs. Clinton would draw far fewer Republican crossover voters and is making little effort to do so, Mr. Obama — who leads in the delegate race for the nomination — is making no bones about courting members of the other party. He tells a story at nearly every campaign event about Republicans quietly supporting him, which always draws guffaws from his partisan crowd.

“They whisper to me. They say, ‘Barack, I’m a Republican, but I support you,’ ” he said in an exaggerated stage whisper last month after winning primaries in Virginia, Maryland and the District.

“And I say, ‘Thank you. Why are we whispering?’ ” Pointing into the crowd with a broad smile, he said: “There’s one right there, an ‘Obamacan,’ that’s what we call them.” Raucous laughter erupted from his supporters.

Meanwhile, Mr. McCain, who already wrapped up the Republican nomination, likes to point out that he draws strong support from members of the other party. In Michigan’s voting, on Jan. 15, some 10 percent of those who voted in the GOP primary were Democrats, and Mr. McCain won half of those votes. A December poll in Nevada showed Mr. McCain drawing 17 percent of Democrats.

“I want to thank all of you here and all the Republicans, independents — and independent-thinking Democrats,” the Arizona senator said Tuesday night after he secured the 1,191 delegates needed to win the Republican presidential nomination.

And he prompts the same amused response as Mr. Obama when he frankly admits he’s looking for votes from every conceivable demographic. “We’re depending on Republicans, Democrats, independents, Libertarians, vegetarians, Trotskyites,” the senator said to laughter and applause just before the Michigan contest.

Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh said both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain have crossover appeal.

“If it is a McCain-Obama match up, you could see McCain picking up ‘Reagan Democrats’ and Obama picking up Republicans who oppose the war in Iraq,” she said.

Pollster John Zogby agreed, saying both candidates are successfully wooing crossover voters.

“There are clearly Republicans behind Obama and I’m convinced there will continue to be,” he said. But he acknowledged that as the Democratic race drags on, Mr. Obama is endangering that crossover vote by moving to the left to defeat Mrs Clinton.

“For Obama, one of things Republicans will use, in addition to lack of experience, is that he moved so far left, is left wing,” Mr. Zogby said.

But he can’t move much further to the left — National Journal magazine ranked him the most liberal member of the Senate, which will present problems if he tries to move back to the center in the general election.

Yet John Martin, the founder of — a Web site created in December 2006 that now boasts 1,000 members — said Republicans can look past their differences with Mr. Obama and find common ground.

“The reason people like me like Obama is that he’s about unity and ending the partisan ways we’ve been dealing with things the last 20 years, during the Clinton years and the Bush years,” Mr. Martin said.

“We don’t support a lot of things that Obama stands for — including issues like Second Amendment rights — obviously abortion is a problem for us — but when you look at the bigger issues, health care, the deficit, energy independence, these are issues that we’re only going to solve if we’re unified and we have a majority of Americans behind one candidate, and that candidate is Obama.”

Mr. McCain is not faring as well on the Internet: While there is a newly created site,, there is just one person signed up in the guestbook.

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