Not surprisingly, Bill Bradley and Gary Hart have endorsed Obama. The “priests” of former cycles have now publicly embraced another to carry the torch. By “priests,” I am referring to this:
Democratic professionals often describe this sorting as a competition between upscale “wine track” candidates and blue-collar “beer track” contenders. Another way to express the difference is to borrow from historian John Milton Cooper Jr.’s telling comparison of the pugnacious Theodore Roosevelt and the idealistic Woodrow Wilson. Cooper described the long rivalry between Republican Roosevelt and Democrat Wilson as a contest between a warrior and a priest. In modern times, the Democratic presidential race has usually pitted a warrior against a priest.
Some may object that 2000 does not really fit this mould, but if Gore is not really a warrior the demographics of Bradley voters support characterising him as part of the Hart-Tsongas-Dean tradition. Those who have been following the ’08 campaign for longer than any of us care to remember will recall that all this came to us by way of a Ron Brownstein piece referring to the divide between the bases of support for Obama and Clinton:
Obama’s early support is following a pattern familiar from the campaigns of other brainy liberals with cool, detached personas and messages of political reform, from Eugene McCarthy in 1968 to Gary Hart in 1984 to Bill Bradley in 2000. Like those predecessors, Obama is running strong with well-educated voters but demonstrating much less support among those without college degrees.
That trend may be exaggerated at the moment by the fact that Obama, a relative newcomer, is better known among better-educated voters, and it could be mitigated in the future by his potential appeal to African Americans. But it is not a pattern Obama can allow to harden. All of the candidates whose support fit that profile ultimately lost the nomination to rivals whose support was rooted in the blue-collar and minority communities where Clinton is strongest in early surveys.
Obama may be expanding his support, but he has a more fundamental problem: Democratic constituency groups expect their nominee to propose policies that do things in their interest, or at least their perceived interest, and they expect a certain degree of partisanship and brass-knuckles politicking on their behalf, while Obama’s public persona seems to reject all of that and the man seems to regard it with some distaste.
Listening to the descriptions of supporters for Huckabee and Romney, I noted on Thursday that this same dividing line appeared on the Republican side, as Romney tended to do best with higher-income and more educated voters. This is probably the first time since ’96 we have seen this kind of divide between Republican candidates.