The Role of Race in the PA Primary

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David Sirota applies his Race Chasm theory to the Pennsylvania primary in an interesting blog post this morning. The theory is really an observation, but a keen one: Obama tends to win states that have either a) virtually no African-American population, and therefore minimal white-black racial tension; or b) states with an African-American population substantial enough (greater than 17%) to overwhelm the votes of the “racially motivated white vote.” Says Sirota:

[Considering] the exit polling and the fact that Pennsylvania falls squarely in the demographic Race Chasm, it is clear that those who continue to pretend race is not a major factor in this campaign are deliberately averting their eyes from a very powerful force in the Democratic primary.

Is Sirota right? Pennsylvania certainly fits the model. And exit polling data from the Keystone state clearly establishes that race was a motivating factor for a significant percentage of voters. Among whites who said race was a factor in how they cast their vote, a whopping 75% supported Hillary Clinton over Obama.

Will those numbers be the same among, say, swing white voters in Pennsylvania, in a race pitting Obama against John McCain. If so, Obama could have a hard time winning what is a must-win state for the Democrats.