Clinton again did better than Obama among white voters, especially those who said they were less educated and had a lower income. A potential problem still for Obama is not just white lower-income voters but older voters too, who in Indiana went overwhelmingly for Clinton. "That shows me that Obama, who is obviously going to be the nominee, will have to work to do well not just among blue-collar [voters] but senior citizens, too," says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "They have not yet bought into the idea that this young, inexperienced senator can be a successful president."
The two biggest issues brought up in the two weeks between Pennsylvania and yesterday's primaries worked out in different ways. Wright did play into about half the voters' decisions, according to the exit polls, and of those, a majority ended up voting for Clinton, with 7 in 10 voting for the former first lady in Indiana and 6 in 10 voting for Clinton in North Carolina. Carmines suggested that the Wright scandal may have also had an effect on the decisions of independents and Republicans. Unlike Ohio and Pennsylvania, which held closed primaries, North Carolina allowed independents to vote, and Indiana allowed both independents and Republicans. In both states, Clinton won more voters who consider themselves Republicans. Obama won a bigger share of independents in Indiana; however, Clinton did better among independents in North Carolina, a bloc that generally sides with Obama.
The other big issue, the Clinton- and John McCain-proposed gas-tax summer break, reinforced the demographic patterns. With its populist message, Clinton may have gotten stronger support from white, more rural, and more working-class voters who were already prone to vote for her.
"It worked, too, for Senator Obama because it allowed him to portray her as pandering to voters and not interested in long-term solutions . . . it painted her as part of the Washington insider establishment," said Carmines. And the exit polls showed a pretty even split as to which candidate would do a better job with the economy.
Clinton has vowed to march on, though any momentum coming off of Pennsylvania has been staved. In the end, margins matter, and now with only a handful of nominating contests left, it will be up to the superdelegates to interpret how much yesterday's margins matter.
Clinton suggested in Indianapolis last night that it would be bizarre for only 48 states to get to pick the nominee after this long, drawn-out affair. But that may not be the case for the superdelegates. "Some will want to get on the train before it leaves the station," Sabato said.