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Obama Risks Alienating Clinton Women and Blue-Collar Supporters


There's a reason why Hillary Clinton gets a surge in fundraising everytime some Democratic party leader or insider calls for her to drop out of the race: it pisses people off. In particular, it upsets the people most likely to support her -- working class Democrats and older white women who have been in the workplace. And these people are some of the most important core voters for the Democratic party.

While Senator Clinton may have been the party's frontrunner for many months, her position left many in the party unhappy with her as a possible nominee. There were grumblings from some in the party that she had moved too far toward the center, even toward the right in her efforts to position herself for her run during her time in the Senate. Some people disliked her style and disliked her personally. And, there was resentment at the sense of inevitability that seemed to shroud her presidential campaign.

Perhaps Senator Clinton's campaign did feel a sense of entitlement to the nomination, believing that the nomination would be wrapped up by Super Tuesday. They were well-funded, they thought they had a good strategy, and they had a candidate with winning connections. They had the best fundraiser in party history on his wife's campaign and he was a huge favorite with the party faithful. He was a "rock star" in current parlance. People would flock to hear him extol his wife's virtues for president. They only had to worry that he didn't upstage her. Or so the thinking was in the beginning. They didn't foresee any serious competition early in the game. They surely underestimated the appeal of a one-term senator from Illinois.

So, yes, perhaps the Clinton campaign felt a sense of entitlement to the nomination. Those days are gone as Senator Clinton is fighting to stay in the race.

But, there is a danger now that the Obama campaign is making the same mistakes that the Clinton campaign made. With the upper hand in fundraising, ahead in pledged delegates, with party leaders seeming to lean on Senator Clinton to withdraw, there is the appearance of people ganging up on the underdog. And Democrats have always liked underdogs, whether they are immigrants, blue collar workers, minorities, people persecuted for religious or sexual reasons, or anyone who is disenfranchised.

Senator Obama runs the risk of alienating some of the core voters in the Democratic party with his own sense of entitlement to the nomination if his supporters continue to call for Senator Clinton to drop out of the race. Defeating someone fair and square is one thing. Giving the appearance of asking someone to rollover and drop out to make things easier for you is another. That doesn't go down very well with a lot of voters, especially with the working class and underpaid professional women who make up many of Senator Clinton's supporters -- women who may have been passed over for jobs in the past and who work for 80 cents on the dollar of what their male counterparts make, at best. They may be able to identify with a woman being asked to get out of the way for a man who wants the top job -- and they don't like it. Senator Obama may not be able to win these voters back if he becomes the nominee.

The Obama campaign may have caught on to the fact that urging Senator Clinton to leave the race is counterproductive. When Senator Leahy stated last week that Senator Clinton should withdraw, Senator Obama and his campaign moved away from the remarks. Senator Obama was quoted as saying that he did not think she should end her campaign. "My attitude is Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants." Well, that's mighty nice of him.

The senator said elsewhere:

Obama, in an interview taped Monday and aired Tuesday on NBC's "Today Show," said the former first lady "has certainly earned the right to stay in this race as long as she wants ... I think she deserves to be able to run and make her case."

No matter what Senator Obama says, these comments sound condescending to Senator Clinton's supporters, as though it is his race and he can determine who stays in or not. That may not be fair, but that's how they sound to Clinton supporters. I should point out that some of the ways that Senator Clinton's words have been dissected by Obama's followers have not been exactly fair either.

Senator Obama's campaign may or may not feel a sense of entitlement to the nomination at this point, but many of his followers certainly do. You only have to read the message boards here at HuffPost to see the sense of outrage whenever anyone dares to offer any criticism of Senator Obama or even suggest that this race isn't over yet.

A sense of entitlement is not necessarily a good thing. Remember that even if Senator Obama does go on to win the Democratic party's nomination he will still face a general election against a Republican party that doesn't recognize as important what Democrats feel they're entitled to in this country. Campaigning with a sense of entitlement to be president is not going to play any better in the general election than it does in the primaries.

Meanwhile Senator Clinton is proving one thing above all else: she's not a quitter. You have to admit, there are worse qualities, and this particular quality is appealing to a large segment of the Democratic party, even if it doesn't appeal to Barack Obama supporters. People need to stop calling for her to drop out of the race. I don't think it's going to happen. She's made that very clear.

One other thing has been made abundantly clear in the Democratic primaries: there are no pre-ordained winners. No sense of entitlement carries any weight with the voters. The only thing that counts is campaigning and connecting with the people who cast their votes. It looks like it will be that way through June and no candidate has a lock on the nomination, regardless of what the pundits and mathematicians like to say. This is the Democratic party and my vote is as good as yours, whether I'm an older white woman in Pennsylvania or a young Asian man in Oregon. We're the ones who are entitled to the best nominee possible and when the primaries are finally over I hope that's what we'll have.