Posted Nov 12, 2008 at 1:14 AM by Maurice Berger
During the closely fought Democratic primaries and caucuses, a growing and thunderous chorus of Obama supporters (mostly male, by PollTrack's count) called for Hillary Clinton to withdraw from the race. One problem: throughout the latter races, Clinton trailed Obama by just a few hundred delegates at most. And, so, the contest continued to the bitter end, early June. At the time, many Obama supporters felt the hard fought contest would hurt Obama in the fall. In the end, it turned out to be a great asset, allowing him to insulate himself against potential negatives, such as the candidate's association with the Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, and others. Once aired, and adeptly handled by the Obama campaign, these factors were neutralized to a certain extent for the fall campaign. More important, the long primary season allowed the Obama campaign to build deep and formidable on-the-ground operations in virtually all of the battleground states. As contributions flowed in--indeed, the heated match between the two Democratic challengers fired up their respective bases--Obama built a powerful fund raising and voter turnout database. The icing on the cake: after the "bruising" primary fight ended, Obama was able to attract the lion's share of Clinton supporters on 4 November. Obama pollster Joel Benenson, in Time magazine, notes the campaign never believed it would have trouble winning back supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton. Said Benenson: "The notion that voters who supported Senator Clinton would vote Republican in the general election was never supported by what we saw in our polling. At the beginning of June, going into the general election, Obama had a double-digit lead in our battleground poll against McCain among women. He was competitive among Catholics and led 2 to 1 among Latinos. The press corps had focused on all these groups in the last three months of the primary and was convinced that they would pose problems for us in the general. But that just wasn't true, and we recognized that early on. As a result, we were able to focus on swing voters instead of worrying about parts of the base that were already with us. We looked at groups where Obama could make gains and at places where he could broaden the map."