Peggy Noonan joins the long list of horrified Democrats deploring Hillary Clinton’s comments that she has a base of support among white voters and Barack Obama does not. Yes, I agree it was surprising that she said it. But her saying it isn’t the problem. Indeed, Paul Krugman wrote the same thing:
There’s just one thing that should give Democrats pause — but it’s a big one: the fight for the nomination has divided the party along class and race lines in a way that I believe is unprecedented, at least in modern times.Ironically, much of Mr. Obama’s initial appeal was the hope that he could transcend these divisions. At first, voting patterns seemed consistent with this hope. In February, for example, he received the support of half of Virginia’s white voters as well as that of a huge majority of African-Americans. But this week, Mr. Obama, while continuing to win huge African-American majorities, lost North Carolina whites by 23 points, Indiana whites by 22 points. Mr. Obama’s white support continues to be concentrated among the highly educated; there was little in Tuesday’s results to suggest that his problems with working-class whites have significantly diminished.
Clinton’s comment is not quite like the 3 a.m. ad: John McCain can’t turn around and run ads saying “Even Hillary says white voters don’t support Obama.” She didn’t give the Republicans some rhetorical advantage. She was caught remarking on a very unpleasant and troubling question for Democrats. It’s the key question for the fall: what kind of coalition can Obama put together?
If it’s the McGovern-like grab bag of African Americans, ultra-liberals, and young voters, he’ll lose, and maybe even in some states Democrats have traditionally counted in the their column (e.g. Pennsylvania). If he inherits the blue-collar voters from Clinton, sprints to the center and successfully re-runs the 2006 election (“throw the bums out!”) he’ll win. But as disagreeable and annoying as Clinton may be to the Democratic establishment and mainstream media, this potential for electoral polarization and defeat is not Clinton’s doing. She just reminded them of their worst fears. How dare she.