the Iowa caucuses set for Jan. 3, and with U.S.
Senator Barack Obama developing momentum among
liberal Democratic voters, the unspoken -- but
relevant -- question is: Is America really ready
to elect an African American as president?
8 years of the Bush Administration, the country is
clearly eager for a change in direction and
priorities and is definitely inclined to elect a
Democrat to the presidency in 2008. There is
little doubt that Hillary Clinton or John Edwards
would beat any Republican, but there is
considerable doubt that Obama would win if he is
of the enduring political fallacies of American
politics, reinforced by the plenitude of African
Americans in sports and in the media, is that the
black population is exploding and that the white
population is static or decreasing. Another
fallacy is that a black presidential nominee's
huge turnout among blacks would enable him to win.
In fact, a black presidential candidate would
elicit an even higher white turnout.
1790, according to census figures, black residents
of this country, most of whom were slaves, were
19.3 percent of the population, numbering 757,000.
In 2000 blacks were 12.3 percent of the
population, numbering 34.6 million. In 210 years
the black population grew 45-fold, or by four
million each 25-year generation. In 1950 blacks
were 9.9 percent of the population (15.1 million),
which increased to 10.5 percent in 1960, to 11.1
percent in 1970, to 11.8 percent in 1980 and to
12.1 percent (29.9 million) in 1990.
black population more than doubled between 1950
and 2000, but the country's white population
increased from 135 million to 211.5 million during
that period. Despite a higher birth rate among
blacks than whites, the white population, fueled
by immigration, grew 70-fold in the last 210
years, from 3.1 million in 1790 to 211.5 million
in 2000. Whites now outnumber blacks by 6-1. In
1950 whites outnumbered blacks by 9-1, and in 1790
it was 4.2-1.
there's the exploding Hispanic population, which
numbers 35.5 million, up from 22.3 million in
1990. Many older, conservative Hispanics, largely
Democrats, will be disinclined to support a black
candidate for president.
American population of 281 million (up from 248
million in 1990) is roughly 72 percent white, 12
percent black, 13 percent Hispanic and 3 percent
in the 2004 presidential contest was 122,285,000,
up from 104,283,000 in 2000. It was 101,016,000 in
1992. Of those voters, less than 10 percent were
the path to the presidential nomination involves
far fewer voters, and black voters comprise a
disproportionate share of Democrats -- which
boosts Obama's prospects for winning the
how Obama can win the nomination but lose the
(Jan. 3): The state has a population of 2.9
million people, of whom 2.1 percent are black. In
the January caucuses, which select county
delegates to a state convention which selects
national convention delegates, roughly 200,000
Iowans participate, with about 100,000 being
Democrats. For Obama, Clinton and Edwards, the
"magic number" is 50,000, or 1.7 percent
of the state's population. That means find,
motivate and deliver 50,000 people on a cold
is not a liberal state, but Iowa Democrats are
liberal, and most activist Democrats are very
liberal, very anti-Bush and very anti-Iraq War.
Liberals enabled George McGovern to win Iowa in
1972, Jimmy Carter, campaigning as the
"change" candidate, won Iowa in 1976,
union backing helped Dick Gephardt to win in 1988,
and Al Gore beat Bill Bradley in 2000, running as
the "electable" Democrat. The 2004
contest is illustrative: Howard Dean, the
"change" candidate, brought in 3,500
out-of-state workers and led in the early polls,
but John Kerry portrayed Dean as a loser against
Bush and got 38 percent of the vote, to 32 percent
for Edwards, 18 percent for Dean and 11 percent
cinched Kerry's nomination. The news media
dismissed Dean as a loser, and Kerry, buoyed by
his Iowa victory, went on to win New Hampshire and
the nomination -- and then to lose to Bush.
2008 outlook: Edwards, a favorite of the unions,
has been campaigning nonstop since 2004, and he is
likely to replicate his 32 percent vote. Clinton
is the "establishment" candidate, backed
by most party figures. Obama is the
"change" candidate. The question is:
Will he collapse like Dean or surge like Carter?
prediction: Numbers are everything. Hard-core
liberals will back Obama, and he will get 35
percent of the delegates, to 32 percent for
Edwards and 31 percent for Clinton. The non-Obama
vote will be 65 percent, but the media will
portray the outcome as a huge loss for Clinton,
since the non-Clinton vote will be 69 percent.
Hampshire (Jan. 8): This is a primary, not a
caucus. The state's population is 1.3 million, and
the 2004 Democratic presidential primary drew
216,787, or less than 17 percent of the
population. Boosted by his Iowa win, Kerry of
Massachusetts got 38 percent of the vote, to 26
percent for Den and 12 percent for Edwards. The
result doomed Dean and Edwards, and Kerry became
the presumptive nominee, even though there were
another 20 primaries.
outlook: If Obama wins Iowa, he'll be favored in
New Hampshire, and if he wins New Hampshire, he'll
win the nomination.
Carolina (Jan. 26): The state's population is 4.2
million people, of whom 29.4 percent are black.
Turnout in the 2004 Democratic presidential
primary was 293,843, or less than 7 percent of the
population. Edwards, of North Carolina, got 45
percent of the vote, to 30 percent for Kerry and 5
percent for Dean. Interestingly, black activist Al
Sharpton got 10 percent of the vote.
outlook: Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Obama and
her recent rally in the state will motivate black
voters, who constitute more than 40 percent of
Democratic primary voters. Edwards must win the
state to remain viable. Clinton is trying to
finish second. My prediction: Obama will be first
with 48 percent of the vote, thereby dooming
Edwards and crippling Clinton.
(Jan. 29): Contrary to both parties' demands, the
state scheduled an early primary. The state's
population is 17.4 million people, of whom 14.2
percent are black. The 2004 Democratic
presidential primary drew 753,762, or 4.3 percent
of the population. The easy winner, after his
triumphs in Iowa and New Hampshire, was Kerry,
with 77 percent of the vote. Edwards got 10
percent, Dean got 3 percent, and Sharpton got 3
Clinton, Florida is her firewall. At least a third
of Democratic primary voters are Jewish. After
earlier losses, a Florida win can resuscitate her.
Tuesday" (Feb. 5): With 20 primaries and two
caucuses, the Democratic presidential struggle
will be over on that day, when 2,063 delegates
will be chosen. It takes 2,181 votes to win the
Democratic nomination. If Obama wins Iowa, New
Hampshire and South Carolina (with 140 delegates),
he'd have great credibility in other states on
Feb. 5, which include New York (280 delegates),
New Jersey (127), Illinois (185), California
(440), Massachusetts (121) and Georgia (104).
Other key states include Colorado, Minnesota,
Missouri, Connecticut and Tennessee.
outlook: Obama certainly will win his home state,
and a huge black turnout will boost him in both
urban and southern states, but, to triumph, Obama
needs white liberals to embrace him as their
champion and not ponder the issue of his
electability. My prediction: Obama is in the right
place at the right time. He will sweep on Feb. 5
and be nominated.
he will not be elected. Three factors dictate a
presidential outcome: comfort, competence and
stature. A presidential race with an incumbent is
a referendum. Without an incumbent, it's a choice,
and if Obama is the Democratic candidate, voters
-- especially nonliberal whites and conservative
Hispanics -- will ask themselves: Am I comfortable
with Obama in the White House? Do I want a black
president? Does Obama have the seasoning, gravitas
and experience to be the commander in chief?
lost by just 2,912,497 votes in 2004, carrying 19
states with 252 electoral votes. For a Democrat to
win in 2008, all he or she need do is win all the
2004 Kerry states plus 18 more electoral votes --
such as in Ohio (20), Colorado (9), New Mexico
(5), Nevada (5) or Arizona (10). Clinton or
Edwards would do that. Obama would not.
Tennessee in 2006, Democrats ran U.S.
Representative Harold Ford Jr., who is black, for
senator. He ran as a moderate, not a militant, but
he lost by 49,935 votes, getting 48 percent of the
votes cast, to an unimpressive Republican, Bob
Corker. Ford got 156,501 fewer votes than Kerry,
who lost the state with 43 percent of the vote. A
substantial number of white voters simply will not
vote for a black candidate.
for Republicans in 2008, it will be Tennessee all
over. If the Democrats nominate Obama, a
Republican will beat him.