After weeks of tortured negotiations, the Obama campaign (which now in effect controls the Democratic National Committee) has agreed to allow Sen. Hillary Clinton's name to be placed in nomination.
This is more than just symbolic. It shows the degree to which Obama's team is now willing to try to woo former Clinton supporters into the Obama camp in November. One might also call it an admission that the Obama campaign is desperate to win the support of the 20 percent or so of her 18 million supporters who have been telling pollsters they will not vote for Sen. Barack Obama.
A Lifetime TV poll last week showed that, and: "While Obama is doing well with minority women, with support from 89% of African-Americans and 62% of Hispanics, McCain garnered support from nearly half of Caucasian women surveyed (47% vs. 38% for Obama). Hispanic women (14%) were more undecided than African-Americans (4%) or Caucasians (11%)."
It's not entirely coincidental that the decision was announced one day after a new Pew Research Center poll showed the race between Obama and Sen. John McCain in a statistical dead heat. Just one month earlier, Obama enjoyed a comfortable 8 percent lead over McCain.
In the interim, Obama took what was widely described in the media as a triumphant Middle East and European tour, including a speech in Germany with an outdoor audience of some 200,000 in attendance. Obama enjoyed a short-lived bounce in the polls following that tour. But the fact it has quickly disappeared is bad news for his campaign.
Key to Obama's chances for victory in the fall is his appeal to white women, 40+, a key support group for Clinton. At least as of the end of last month, he was doing very poorly by historical standards with this group:
According to the latest Fox News survey, Obama is winning among women under 40 by 13 points, but McCain is winning among women aged 41-45 by four points. Among women 50 and over, McCain is three points ahead. Obama's 48-35 lead among women under 40 is normal for a Democrat, but to trail among women in their 40s by 45-41 and by women over 50 by 38-35 is extraordinary. The problem is that older women don't like Obama as much as younger women do. While 70 percent of women under 40 have a favorable opinion of the Democratic candidate, only 58 percent of women in their 40s feel the same way, and only 52 percent of those over 50 see him favorably. For a Democrat to be losing among women over 40 is without precedent in the past 20 years.
Clearly the Obama campaign is starting to pay attention to this group, but there may not be enough time for him to win it over. Allowing Senator Clinton's name to be placed in nomination is a good start, but Obama needs to do more, much more. The Internet is rife with websites launched after Clinton conceded in June (JustSayNoDeal.com) and some of them threaten that there is nothing Obama can do at this point to win their support. Another good move, unlikely to be made but a good idea nonetheless, would be a public apology by Obama and DNC Chair Howard Dean to Clinton for not chastising media commentators who made blatantly sexist remarks about Clinton during her campaign. Will we see that much humility from the Obama/Dean team? Again, unlikely, but it should be considered. Not only can Senator Obama not afford to lose these voters to Republican McCain, he cannot afford for them to stay home on Election Day.