Did the muslim smear hurt Obama in Ohio?

Obama carried the major cities in Ohio yesterday but lost statewide.I can't help but wonder how much the "cryptomuslim" whispering smear campaign hurt him. There are some clues in the exit polls. Using the data from CNN, we see the following:

The vote among Democrats was racially divided, with white Dems going for Clinton and black Dems going for Obama. Democratic party members followed the same breakdown, but white Independent voters were somewhat closer, preferring Clinton by 8 points.

Vote by Race

White (76%) - Clinton 64%, Obama 34%
African-American (18%) - Clinton 13%, Obama 87%

Vote by Party and Race

White Democrats (49%) - Clinton 70%, Obama 27%
White Independents (18%) - Clinton 53%, Obama 45%
Black Democrats (15%) - Clinton 12%, Obama 88%

Protestants and Catholics alike preferred Clinton by a very large margin. This held true regardless of race.

Vote by Religion

Protestant (32%) - Clinton 61%, Obama 36%
Catholic (23%) - Clinton 63%, Obama 36%
Other Christian (23%) - Clinton 46%, Obama 54%

Vote by Religion and Race

White Protestant (40%) - Clinton 67%, Obama 30%
White Catholic (20%) - Clinton 65%, Obama 34%

Interestingly, when you look at the age breakdown overall, there's a transition with Obama taking progressively less and Clinton taking progressively more as you go up in age bracket. The breakeven point was the 40-49 age group who went for Clinton by only 4 points. However when you factor race and age together, the numbers decline for Obama quite drastically, with Obama winning the youngest age bracket (17-29) by only one point, and then losing more and more to Clinton as you go up.

Vote by Age

17-24 (7%) - Clinton 29%, Obama 70%
25-29 (8%) - Clinton 41%, Obama 54%
30-39 (17%) - Clinton 49%, Obama 51%
40-49 (21%) - Clinton 52%, Obama 48%
50-64 (32%) - Clinton 60%, Obama 37%
65 and Older (14%) - Clinton 72%, Obama 26%

Vote by Age and Race

White 17-29 (10%) - Clinton 47%, Obama 48%
White 30-44 (19%) - Clinton 60%, Obama 40%
White 45-59 (26%) - Clinton 66%, Obama 32%
White 60 and Older (20%) - Clinton 72%, Obama 24%

So overall, the vote broke heavily across racial lines, regardless of party affiliation. The Christian vote broke heavily for Clinton, regardless of race. And the youth vote broke for Obama, except for the white youth.

It is of course very difficult to tease out anything concrete from this. What seems relevant though is that race, while a strong factor, had no effect on the religion breakdown, whereas it did tip the age breakdown. This suggests to me that religion was a strong barrier to Obama and operated independently of race. If religion was more flexible, then it would also have followed the racial pattern seen in the age grouping. Can we infer then that the muslim smear had some effect? It certainly wasn't negligible, but it probably was just one of a number of factors that combined to tip the state towards Hillary.

Hillary certainly had the opportunity to distance herself, and utterly repudiate, the muslim smear in a very public fashion before the people of Ohio and chose not to do so. So while her campaign probably wasn't actively fanning the muslim smear, it certainly was content to let it operate unhindered.

Earlier I argued that we as muslims should wait until after the primary ends to hold Obama accountable for distancing himself from muslim Americans. It's true that he has called the smear an insult to muslims, but he still has not said that whether he is muslim or not is irrelevant. I thought prior to Ohio that some distance between Obama and muslim Americans would help him, but now it seems to me that there's not much point. So why not press the issue now?

I think that prior to Pennsylvania Obama should confront the muslim smear and attempt to take it off the table by challenging the underlying islamophobia. I don't think his delegate lead is in any danger but I very much doubt he will win PA, a state with demographics highly similar to Ohio. Even the most committed Obama partisans must concede that losing OH and PA is going to be a significant liability in the general election - electability is a real concern, and the Democrat can't beat McCain without those two states. Therefore Obama has to look strategically at the electability issue and attempt to neutralize whatever forces he can that are undermining him in these blue-collar, predominantly white and Christian communities. The two things hurting him the most are the NAFTA problem and the muslim smear.

The real target is John McCain, and John McCain is no Alan Keyes. If Obama wants to counter Hillary's argument that only she can beat McCain by competing in battleground states (whose importance in the general election even a 50-state strategy can't diminish), he is going to have to make a serious play for PA. And that means it's time for him to channel his inner Jerry Seinfeld.

"I'm not muslim and never have been. Not that there's anything wrong with that."

Senator Obama, you can't hide from the cryptomuslim smear forever. The time to confront it is now. If Hope, Change, and Unity aren't enough to defeat the Islamophobia within, then how much power do these key concepts of your campaign really hold?


arubyan said...

I don't think the word "smear" means what you think it does.

A smear is when you seek to destroy someone's message (or career) by drawing attention to some minor and irrelevant characteristic or aspect.

John Edwards gets expensive haircuts so that means he's a hypocrite when he talks about helping the poor.

Al Gore lives flies in jet airplanes so that means he's a hypocrite when he talks about ways to solve global warming.


Barack Obama is not a Muslim. So implying that he is, isn't a smear. It is an untruth.

Aziz said...

i think youre being overly pedantic. Why is a smear only restricted to true but irrelevant aspects? A smear can be a lie, too. at any rate this is not strictly relevant to the issue of Obama needing to confront it head on.

casey said...

Aziz, two points: first, many Republicans crossed over to vote in the Democratic primary in Ohio. I'm an independent myself, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were many like me in Ohio. I would have voted for Hillary, but I got to the polls literally right after they locked the doors about 7:30. Silly me, I thought they were open until 8:00. :(

Despite Rush's exhortations, I think many moderate conservatives and independents prefer Hillary to Obama; she seems closer to the center compared to the Barak-star.

Second, I suspect NAFTA had a lot more to do with the results than any "middle name smear" whispering campaign did. Would you like to guess which two countries are Ohio's biggest trading partners? If you said Canada and Mexico, you get a kewpie doll!

To be truthful, I expected Ohio to go to Obama mainly because black Americans break for him on the order of 9-to-1, and both the greater Cleveland and greater Cincinnati area contain proportionately higher black populations.

In response to Ara's pedantry {g}, it was always my understanding that a smear was a dishonest or untruthful accusation against an opponent. Hence citing Al Gore's extensive carbon footprint is not a smear, as he really does have a much greater carbon footprint than most normal human beings.

Edwards' haircuts are a smear, but a tiny one; on the same order as snarking about that famous clip where he primps before an appearance. The truth is that all politicians do that. From his POV he's not getting a $400 haircut; rather he's spending $400 (chump change in this context) to facilitate the delivery of his message. The only reason the cuts cost that much is that Edwards insisted on a particular stylist, who decided to -due to the demands on his time and travel requirements- charge $400 a "do." Free enterprise in action, baby! :)

Implying that Barak Obama is some sort of crypto-Muslim because of his middle name is, I think, Ara, definably a "smear." A similar charge against Hillary would be that she's a subservient agent of "Red China" because of the great number of Chinese-American contributions to her campaigns.

One of life's little ironies is that Dubya's home is much, much greener than Al Gore's! Try googling it. You'll be surprised. :)

Aziz: to return to the need for Obama to face this issue head-on, I refer all interested parties to Baldilocks' take. It should be considered the definitive take on this so-called "issue."