The big surprise is not that Clinton won among women (59 percent to 34 percent) and Latinos (2 to 1). Those votes more or less met expectations. What few people had anticipated was the massive turnout among Latinos, who comprised 29 percent of the California Democratic electorate yesterday--nearly double what pollsters predicted.
As Simon Rosenberg and Peter Leyden pointed out in their recent Mother Jones feature, Latino voters embody one of two major demographic waves that will change the nation's politics. That they turned out in such huge numbers to support Clinton might indicate they actually really like her, as opposed only to preferring her over an African American or recognizing her name. Or maybe Latinos were politicized even more than anyone had thought by the immigration debate.
Obama has been riding the second major demographic trend--the rise of the Millennial Generation, or Gen Y, a huge, liberal-leaning echo-boom. Nationally, he captures a larger overall chunk of this vote. But last night in California, age was trumped by race. White voters under 30 broke for Obama 2 to 1 but Hispanic voters under 30 broke for Clinton by an even larger margin. And each group voted in equal numbers. Needless to say, if that trend persists across the West and in places like Texas, Obama is in trouble.
Obama's challenge is embodied by people like Eric Hernandez, who I profiled last week and hung out with again last night. Hernandez is 18-years old, Latino, and a hard-working Obama partisan. On Saturday he spent the day block-walking with a group of 15 young people in the large Hispanic neighborhoods of Northern California's Santa Clara County. But only about half of those volunteers spoke Spanish. That kind of outreach in a county of 500,000 Latinos is a drop in the bucket. Santa Clara ultimately went for Clinton 55/40. In the coming races Obama will need need to enlist many more Spanish-speaking volunteers if he still expects the grassroots to animate his campaign.
SAN JOSE, CA--The Obama war room here is packing up and shutting down. With 31 percent of ballots counted in Santa Clara County, Clinton leads Obama 57 to 35 percent. Assuming the spread holds (and it might not), this is a blow to the Obama campaign. This district was supposed to be competitive--a place where Obama might cut into Clinton's lead among Hispanics. To some extent, he has. A few weeks ago Clinton was winning Hispanic votes by a 3-to-1 margin; exit polls tonight show the gap narrowing to roughly 2 to 1. But they also show Latinos comprising 29 percent of the Democratic electorate--a whopping 50 percent increase since the primaries of 2006. This may well be the story of the night. With the results incomplete and the campaigns heading home, though, it's still hard to say. "If you give me a call tomorrow," Obama volunteer Peter Allen told me as he downed his last beer of the night, "I'll probably be able to give you a better and more sober assessment." And so it goes as well for the press.
SAN JOSE, CA — At 7:55, a woman with a kid in her lap and a phone in her hand turned to her friend and said, "Let me get this last call in." She looked at the clock. "Well, it's too late. They can't go to the polls now." She set down her phone and picked up a granola bar. And with that, Campaign Obama began drawing to a close.
Neaby, two Latino guys stood talking. One wore a faux hawk, the other a suit. "In two minutes, Obama wins California," the guy with the faux hawk said. If Obama does, it will be in large because Spanish-speaking Obama supporters cut into Clinton's lead among Latinos. This morning no Latino campaign workers were here, and phone bank workers had to hang up on people who didn't speak English. But roughly ten percent of the people crowded into the HQ right now are Latino, and many have been working for weeks in their communities to support Obama.
Now, as people are gathered around giving end-of-the-trail speeches, I'm impressed by the crowd's diversity. I see old and young; black, brown and white; headscarves, neckties, and hoodies. People are having fun. It helps that Obama's name is infinitely cheerable. The latest innovation is a cheer that begins with everyone squatting while letting out a long, low "O" sound, slowly rising, and busting out with a "Bama!" A woman sitting next to me said to her friend: "The energy is just amazing."
Alright folks. I have to secure a place to sleep in San Jose. I'll be back in about an hour, and then here into the small of the night.
SAN JOSE, CA — I just got off the phone with California Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland, who confirmed that the party has experienced ballot shortages in some places. "The good news is people want to vote on the Democratic ballot," he said. "The bad news is some of these places are running out of ballots." Even so, the shortages have been isolated he said. Polls will stay open until people have the chance to vote, and they can cast ballots on blank sheets of paper if need be.
I also asked Mulholland about the reports of independent voters not being given Democratic ballots, which has been a major concern of Obama people here today. About 10 to 12 percent of Democratic ballots cast in California today are predicted to come from independents, who favor Obama by a significant margin. (The GOP does not allow indies to vote in its primary but the Democrats do). Mulholland said independents received emails and sample ballots informing them of their rights. "All of our poll workers have been instructed to give them a Democratic ballot if they ask," he said. "Has that happened every time? No. But the independent voter has to have some responsiblity (to ask for one) too."
Meanwhile, here in Obama HQ in San Jose, things are crazy. It's standing room only, it's cheers for each state (sometimes prematurely), it's hand wringing and genuflecting over Utah. "Come on everybody, send Utah your feelings," a girl in fatigues shouted. "Send Utah your love!"
SAN JOSE, CA — In a sign of how huge turnout is in parts of the state, the Democratic Party is running out of ballots. The Obama campaign tells me this is a problem in Stockton and Fresno, and San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. In the latter two places, some eight to ten polling places have reported shortages, Luke McGowan, Obama's deputy regional field director there, says. The Democratic Party has told him voters will be allowed to fill out blank ballots, writing in their choices, he says. He does not have information for other parts of the state, so I can't yet tell you how big the problem is. There's only an hour and a half left to vote in California, so any glitches must be fixed fast (unless the polls stay open longer). I'll post on this again if I find out more.