Hillary Clinton owes her victories in Texas and Ohio to restored support from white men, who, in recent primaries, had been backing Barack Obama.
Exit polls in the two states did not include a question on national security, an issue Clinton had hammered on in recent days, but she did win decisively among late deciders in both states, suggesting that the issue played to her advantage.
The national security issue likely helped her with men. It addition, it arguably helped her reduce Obama's normally huge margins among Republicans and independents voting in Democratic primaries -- sometimes exceeding 30 points -- down to much more manageable deficits of 6 to 10 points.
In Ohio, Clinton won white men by 9 points, 55-44, and in Texas by a slim 50-49 margin. This contrasts with such recent state primaries as Maryland, where white men backed Obama 48-45; California, 55-35; Virginia, 58-40; Virginia, 58-40; and Wisconsin, 63-34.
Clinton's aggressive portrayal of Obama as dangerously inexperienced on security matters and on international threats was relentless during the last five days of the contest. Her most controversial ad during this past week was played repeatedly on air and generated immense free media: "It's 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. . . . someone who already knows the world's leaders, knows the military. . . . Who do you want answering the phone?"
After Obama complained that the commercial was designed to play on voter fears, Clinton countered: "Senator Obama says that if we talk about national security in this campaign, we're trying to scare people. Well, I don't think people in Texas scare all that easily."
Columbia political scientist Robert Erikson said he was "not ready to buy that interpretation--that men are particularly vulnerable to the phone ad," unless it could be shown that "the gender gap among whites should be declining -- Hillary gaining among men but less so among women."
In fact, that is just the case. In Texas and Ohio, the white gender gap was 17 and 18 points in Ohio and Texas, respectively, compared to the larger gap of 34 points in Wisconsin, 24 points in Virginia, 40 points in California, 21 points in Maryland and 31 in Connecticut.
Clinton's wins in Ohio and Texas, both mega-states, fueled by the emergence of an effective issue to use against Obama, is likely to further motivate her campaign to continue the nomination fight at least through the April 22 Pennsylvania primary -- and perhaps all the way to the August convention in Denver.
At an Ohio victory party on Tuesday night, Clinton declared, "We're going strong and we're going all the way."
Colby political scientist Sandy Maisel said the exit polls suggest "that the coalitions that existed in the early primaries have returned. That is, Clinton is winning white voters."
MIT political scientist and polling expert Stephen Ansolabehere said his own analysis of the Texas data showed that "Obama did very well in Dallas and Houston areas. Clinton did very well in the Hispanic south. The other areas were closer but leaned to Clinton. It seems to have been an urban-nonurban split."
Clinton and Obama split the two smaller primary contests Tuesday, as Vermont went for Obama and Rhode Island backed Clinton.
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