Barack Obama narrowly bested Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday, but several primaries suggest a potentially crucial edge for her in the days ahead.
In a majority of Tuesday's primaries, Clinton beat Obama decisively among working class voters.
Set aside the candidates' home states and the six caucuses, where Obama ran up huge margins, and Clinton drew more lower and middle class voters in eight of fourteen primaries. That even includes three states that Obama won.
New Mexico was settled by less than a point, for example, but voters diverged sharply by income. Those making under $50,000 went for Clinton, while Obama did better among higher income voters. He won Connecticut by four points, again buoyed by voters making over $50,000, while Clinton bested him among less affluent voters by nearly ten points. Obama won Delaware by a decisive 11 points, but Clinton still drew more voters there earning between $15,000 and $30,000.
The fault line was even sharper in states that went decisively for Clinton. Her California margin was 10 points, for example, but she opened up a 25-point lead among voters making under $50,000. In fact, the only income bracket that Obama won there was in the six figures. The same was true in Massachusetts, where Clinton's 15-point statewide margin powered her from five-figure-voters to the poverty line. She won by about 30 points among voters making under $30,000, who comprised 16% of turnout. (The federal poverty rate is about $17,000 for a family of three.) Tennessee had a similar breakdown, with Obama only winning among six-figure voters.
These gaps were not uniform, of course. Obama posted solid numbers across income groups in many states, even when trailing Clinton. They largely split the working class vote in Arizona and Missouri, a pivotal bellwether for the general election. He won all income groups in Georgia, Utah and Alabama. And while caucus states are hard to compare, given very different turnout dynamics, Obama's organization mobilized and won across income levels in several of the six caucus states as well.
Yet after months of campaign hype about race and gender, Super Tuesday revealed that another atavistic divide within Democratic primaries is still here. As columnist Ron Brownstein foreshadowed almost one year ago:
Obama's early support is following a pattern familiar from the campaigns of other brainy liberals with cool, detached personas and messages of political reform, from Eugene McCarthy in 1968 to Gary Hart in 1984 to Bill Bradley in 2000. Like those predecessors, Obama is running strong with well-educated voters but demonstrating much less support among those without college degrees.... All of the candidates whose support fit that profile ultimately lost the nomination to rivals whose support was rooted in the blue-collar and minority communities where Clinton is strongest in early surveys.
Early polls have been wrong about most things in both parties this cycle. But voter turnout now shows that Clinton is holding onto poor and working class voters. And the Democratic nominee needs their support to win back the White House.