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Return of the wine track?

"Candidate Obama’s pledge to change Washington, echoing reform-minded predecessors like Gary Hart and Bill Bradley, won applause from affluent Democrats and independents in the primaries," writes John Harwood in today's New York Times. But, uh, huh? I know the initial line on Obama's candidacy was that he appealed to "wine-track" voters rather than "beer-track" voters, but that didn't show up in his results.

Look at Iowa or Indiana or South Carolina or Arkansas. In some, Obama won slightly more low-income voters than high-income voters, and in some, it was reversed, but the margins were always close. There's just not much evidence -- at least that I know of -- that Obama built his candidacy on the back of affluent voters. That's why, unlike Hart or Bradley, he won.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 1, 2010; 3:48 PM ET
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I like John Harwood, but sometimes he's a hack

Posted by: Quant | February 1, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I always thought the promise to "change Washington" was a load of crap, frankly. The idea that 200+ years of Jeffersonian democracy is going to be thrown out because of the election of any politician from either side is absurd.

Having said that, its probably good politics to go around spouting platitudes about changing Washington. I remember it being a big applause line during the campaign.

The kind of change in Washington I'd like to see mostly starts and ends in the US Senate, that we might get the results of these never-ending elections enacted into law. However, it seems no president can change the Senate regardless of how magnetic a personality he has so perhaps I should spend more time focusing on the English Premier League or other diversions since our system is f*cked.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | February 1, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

To be fair, Obama DID attract these kinds of primary voters, but it was his ability to branch out beyond that group which made him successful where Bradley, Dean, and Tsongas had failed.

I would not call it a Beer track vs. wine track as much as it is voters whose fates are connected to the the party vs. voters whose fates are independent of the party. The former group is going to reflexively back the establishment candidate. The latter group, having fewer social/economic ties to the party establishment, will naturally feel attracted to those who run insurgent-type candidacies in the primary who makes an appeal based in part on "process" arguments ("a new kind of governing/campaigning"), rather than based on delivering specific things and policies to the interest groups in a primary. The problem is that the organized interest groups in a primary are also the most motivated to vote, so trying to bypass them in favor of a campaign based on a more nebulous personal/anti-establishment style usually fails... except for Obama.

Posted by: tyromania | February 1, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Obama appealed to the "entitlement" crowd and to the affluent voters that 1) hated Bush and 2) felt guilty because of their affluence. America got sucker punched by Obama in 2008...that's not likely to repeat in 2012!

Posted by: my4653 | February 1, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

OMG, Obama appealed to working folk -- how will that ever fit in with the usual (bogus) narrative?

Posted by: leoklein | February 1, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

I think what skews the evidence of Obama's wine track support is the uniform support of Obama by African-Americans across the income spectrum. Obama's problem is with beer-track white Americans. Iowa, was an outlier. He won Iowa as a post-racial outsider candidate. Also Iowa bordered Illinois, so Obama could leverage his local reputation and name recognition. After the South Carolina primary, Hillary Clinton largely succeeded in making Obama the Black candidate, as opposed to a post-racial one. Afterwards, Obama had a hard time winning in states that did not border Illinois that had a significant number of white working class Democrats (relative to new economy, wine track Democrats).

Posted by: len2v | February 1, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

"If you don't count non-caucus states, states that border Illinois, states with black people, and the other states that Obama won, then as you can see, Obama had a hard time winning states with working class whites."

Obama failed to get a popular majority in states like MA and CA which were large media markets which naturally favor the "front runner/machine" candidate rather than insurgents. The insurgent made the unusual move of winning this time. Though perhaps Hillary was at a natural disadvantage because Illinois borders so many states.

Posted by: tyromania | February 2, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

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