Obama Wins Mississippi, and It's All About Race

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 9:10 PM EDT

MSNBC has projected two things: (1) Obama has won tonight's Mississippi primary and (2) Obama's pledged delegate lead will be 160 at the end of the night. Hillary Clinton will have to win 64% of all remaining pledged delegates in order to finish with the pledged delegate lead. That is, shall we say, highly unlikely.

The Clinton campaign plan, best I can see it, is to downplay Mississippi, play up Pennsylvania and win it, and then take the remainder of the states (potentially including do-overs in Michigan and Florida) by severely tarnishing Obama's luster. Narrow the popular vote to almost nothing, then convince superdelegates that are undecided or that support Obama to choose Clinton because she has won the second half of the primary race. Is that a strategy that is likely to win? No, but it's the best they got.

Exit polling from Mississippi says race was a huge factor.*

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Clinton won 71 percent of white women and 68 percent of white men. Obama took 94 percent of black men and 90 percent of black women. Whites and blacks were both roughly 50 percent of the electorate.

The only age group Clinton won tonight was 60 and older. Obama won economy voters, war voters, and health care voters.

Oddly enough, Republicans were 12 percent of the vote tonight and they weren't Republicans caught up in Obama's unity magic. They went 75-25 for Clinton. Draw your own conclusions as to why they voted the way they did.

Can Mississippi go blue in the fall if Obama is the nominee? MSNBC reported recently that an unnamed Democratic statistician believes there are "three red states that could swing if African-American turnout was ever maximized (both in registration and in actual turnout)." Those states? Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Obama took Georgia by 35 and Louisiana by 21 earlier in the race.

But Tom Schaller, author of Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, would argue that Obama isn't going to rewrite the electoral map down south. He believes that black turnout is already maximized, and any turnout gains that come through an Obama candidacy will be small. The other problem is that, according to Schaller's research, the higher the percentage of black people in any given state, the higher the likelihood that the white citizens of that state will vote Republican. Mississippi has the highest percentage of black residents of any state. If Schaller is correct, Mississippi will stay Republican for a long time.

Update: Final tally: Obama 61%, Clinton 37%.

* MSNBC has changed its exit poll numbers in minor ways since I checked them last night. I've updated this blog post to reflect the network's changes.