A funny thing happened on our way to discussing possible Democratic vice- presidential candidates. The presidential nomination race intruded, bringing news that our progressive audience has moved firmly and dramatically behind one candidate — Barack Obama. Click here to see bar charts.
As background, two companion surveys we conducted in the weeks before California’s primary on February 6th gave Obama a solid, if not spectacular lead over Clinton—26% to 15% in the January 21st survey and 32% to 20% in the February 3rd survey. But, in both cases, former Senator John Edwards led, with 32% and 34%, respectively. Then Edwards withdrew from the race shortly before the primary itself, Clinton won California rather handily, and the rest is prologue.
But in the survey completed over the past four days of the same basic audience, Obama now leads Clinton by a remarkable 71% to 17%, with the remaining respondents either undecided (5.4%) or opting for neither Democratic candidate (6.1%). Clearly, readers of what has evolved into Dick & Sharon’s LA Progressive have moved in overwhelming numbers behind Obama, the loser in California’s primary, even though his opponent, Senator Hillary Clinton, is still the darling of many establishment California Democrats.
Given the lopsided support for Obama from our survey’s respondents, it is not surprising that their comments often cited Clinton’s campaign tactics and those of her husband as reasons to avoid voting for her. Thankfully, only a few indicated they would not vote for her should she win the nomination.
More common was this kind of comment:
“I would support either one, but Obama has the best chance of getting his program through Congress. I think he will make an inspiring leader.”
“I would vote for Hillary but think Obama is an exceptionally timely and much more exciting candidate.”
We wonder if the controversy around the purging and then unpurging of progressives from the Obama caucuses this weekend will reverse that trend or will simply be further evidence that Obama is willing to listen to the grassroots.
Now, Who’s the Veep?
Okay. Getting back to the original point of our survey, Obama also leads the race for the second spot on the Democratic ticket if Clinton wins the presidential nomination, registering 37% of respondents, ahead of Edwards at 17% and Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, and Bill Richardson at roughly 7%. But among Clinton supporters, Obama’s support for the vice presidential spot rises to 58%, leaving Edwards far behind at 18%
On the other hand, if Obama gets the presidential nod, the choice for the second spot changes sharply, with Clinton’s support at just 17%—and just 8% among Obama supporters. Governor Bill Richardson garnered the most support with 25%, followed by Edwards at 10% and Senator Jim Webb at 9%—and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius getting significant write-in support.
Is the Catfight Helping or Hurting?
Our respondents are roughly split on whether the ongoing, and sometimes dirty, campaign fight between Senators Obama and Clinton is hurting them or helping Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee. Roughly 26% of respondents feel the infighting is keeping Democrats on the front page, and McCain off, the same percentage as those who feel McCain is getting a free ride to establish his credentials—if he can remember what they are—with the nation’s voters while the two Democrats are otherwise occupied.
Typical of these two groups is the comment that,
“It is time for both to stop besmirching each other and start campaigning against McCain. Let the Republicans attack.”
“If Clinton and Obama keep discussing issues and attacking the status quo (and McCain), the primaries will produce the strongest candidate anyway.”
Behind that first contingent, roughly equal numbers also feel the intraparty debate is hurting both candidates (17.5%) as do those who feel Clinton is suffering most (15.4%). Just 2.4% feel Obama is losing the most by having the debate continue. Many more Clinton supporters think the contest is helping both Democrats (44%), and the number thinking McCain is getting a free ride falls to 10% with Clinton supporters.
Several Clinton supporters expressed dismay at the pressures to have their candidate withdraw:
“I really resent the drumbeat to have Hillary give up. Basically people are telling me to shut up and give up and that I will not do!”
Patience, patience, patience
On what superdelegates should do, most think they should wait until all primaries and caucuses have completed (45%), a number that rises to 60% among Clinton supporters. The next largest contingent think superdelegates should wait at least until after the Pennsylvania primary on April 22nd (35%), a position that 41.5% of Obama supporters take. Understandably, given their candidate’s growing lead in polls, declared delegates, popular vote, and number of states won, Obama supporters favor having the superdelegates act now, by 17.8% to just 2% for Clinton supporters.
Sentiments about how superdelegates should make up their minds ran the gamut:
“Each superdelegate needs to make the choice based on their own conscience and their sense of what their constituents would want. They should be doing their very best to represent the best interests of the people of this country—not just their own opinion but the welfare of America and its citizens.”
“They should think of the future of the party. Who is the one who is getting the new blood into the party and the young people excited about voting? As a young woman, I campaigned for McCarthy because I was against the Vietnam war. The young people need a voice and isn’t it nice that this time they are not getting killed at Kent State? I think we need Obama to speak for the youth and the progressives and bring us together with others.”
“There should be no superdelegates. Period. If some Dems are given votes that count more than others, then what is to keep Republicans from devising another plan, for example that votes be based on taxes paid. Superdelegates have two choices: vote WITH ballots cast in which case they are irrelevant, or vote AGAINST ballots cast, in which case they make voters irrelevant. Neither is good. Both hurt the party and voters. Get rid of superdelegates ASAP.”
“After a new election in Michigan and Florida, they should vote for the person with the most state delegates or most popular votes. This should be done at a caucus among the superdelegates by June 10 th and the Winner announced by June 15th. If no clear winner can be Determined, the Superdelegates should pick a third candidate from a list including Al Gore, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, or Chris Dodd, and release all convention delegates to vote among them at the convention.”
“[They should vote for ] whichever candidate they feel is the best one. They should have the right to vote freely just as everyone else does. If we didn’t think they could handle it, they shouldn’t be given that position. Several have already pledged their votes to someone other than who their state voted for, so why shouldn’t others do the same?”
“They were ‘created’ to make up for the ignorant vote of the masses (seemingly because we can’t possibly know what’s best for this nation). However, at this point, they have to vote with the honesty, intelligence, and insight that, as insiders, they have regarding the two contenders. If they voted with the popular vote, why would we need them? The vote would be decided and the “clueless” masses would have their candidate.”
And a final bit of nostalgia that overlooks the fact the George McGovern won only Massachusetts, making Nixon a master thief to add to his other sterling virtues:
“Let Gore be our President and McGovern be VP. After all, Nixon and Bush stole their elections.”
Finally, the issues
Ending the Iraq Occupation continues as the issue most on people’s minds, with a 31.9% rating—34.7% for Obama supporters and 28% for Clinton supporters. Next come healthcare (17.8%) and the economy (11.3%), with support for these issues rising among Clinton supporters (26.0% and 16%, respectively) and falling among Obama supporters (17.3% and 10.6%, respectively).
But as one person commented, “These aren’t separate issues! They’re all related. Global warming, global warring, and global poverty are inextricably linked to each other!”
For this survey, 295 individuals responded out of 1,014 who saw the invitation, for a 29% response rate. We thank all the individuals who took the time to respond