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Derrick Z. Jackson

The Obama wave

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Derrick Z. Jackson
Globe Columnist / February 6, 2008

NEW YORK

IF THE early exit polls represent reality, Hillary Clinton should thank the calendar that Super Tuesday was last night and not a day later.

Barack Obama was a human crescendo in the final days, with crowds of 20,000 both in St. Louis and Minneapolis and 15,000 both in Hartford and Boise, Idaho. Clinton watched 20- to 35-point leads in the polls shrivel all over the nation. Clinton may still have enough of the Democratic establishment, white women, and personal grit to survive and eke out the Democratic nomination for president.

But she is decisively not catching the kind of wave of thousands of people who streamed Monday night out of Boston's Seaport area and packed the subways in Boston. Thousands of young adults on the subway at midnight in Boston and it was not a Red Sox celebration, a Saturday night, or First Night? It was for Obama on a Monday night?

The exit polls threatened the very rationale of her campaign: experience. The MSNBC national exit poll said the most important quality in the next president was the "ability to bring change" - beating "experience," 53 percent to 22 percent. When asked who is "best able to bring change?" the answer was Obama over Clinton, 72 percent to 25 percent.

The first state that came in, Georgia, was one where Clinton once had the lead and the endorsement of an African-American civil rights icon, US Representative John Lewis. But Obama had the wave. Obama won Georgia with a coalition of 88 percent of the black vote and 39 percent of the white vote overall (significantly more than the 24 percent of white votes he had won in South Carolina, which was pooh-poohed by Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton). The clincher was that, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, between 70 percent and 85 percent of voters under 40 voted for Obama. Nationally, Obama got 64 percent of the young white vote.

The only age group Clinton won in Georgia was 60 and over. Clinton recovered as expected with projected victories by this deadline in New York, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Obama of course added Illinois. The question as the night unfolded, did the once-inevitable Clinton stay ahead of the wave in the most contested states?

The good news for her was that she won Massachusetts. In the Bay State, actual votes still matter more than the crowds.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson@globe.com.

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