Is Clinton Lucky to be a White Woman?


You have to give Hillary Clinton a tonne of credit. Whether you agree with the way she has run her campaign or not, she is a fighter and no matter what happens she keeps getting back up.

Her campaign theme song should definitely be ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor. I’m surprised they haven’t used it on the campaign trail yet (it would also help because it’s a rallying cry for women everywhere – if you don’t believe me, just play it at any bar or club and see how the women in there react).

I come away from each of these primary nights shaking my head at how well she has sprung back up. You do have to admit there is a certain Rocky quality to her campaign (they should also play ‘Eye of the Tiger’ at campaign stops to rally the men).

Now, a lot of that admiration will be washed away the next time she runs one of those 3:00am ads or pretends to be concerned about what Barack Obama’s neighbor or pastor said. But for the moment, in the afterglow of yet another surprising showing (at least, surprising in my eyes), I have to give credit where credit is due.

So, of course, I was curious as to how she did it. I dove into the numbers and for every positive number for Senator Clinton there was an equal and opposite number for Senator Obama. The "bitter" flap didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Obama didn’t do as well among affluent, highly educated voters as he usually does, but it was close. Clinton did better with late deciding voters (are these the voters that the fear ads work on?). But no one number blew me away.

Except one category that Hillary Clinton almost always does well in: white women. She did even better in this category than she normally does – plus Pennsylvania has more people in this category. Senator Clinton won 65 per cent of the white women vote. In a state as white as Pennsylvania, it’s hard to overcome that good a showing in that large a category.

Now, Obama has overcome that barrier before in plenty of white states and he has won many states where the majority of the voters were women (which are most states). But when a giant chunk of the electorate comes out in that large a number to one side, you’d really have to clean up everywhere else to compete.

I know Geraldine Ferraro got in trouble for saying Barack Obama was lucky to be a black man running in this race. Obviously we understand what she means, that winning large percentages of the black vote helps in some key states. What was frustrating was that she didn’t seem to understand that it also cost him plenty of votes and that historically a black man has been anything but lucky when running for a nationwide office (or in many cases, statewide office).

It’s obviously not just the color of Barack Obama’s skin. African-American voters didn’t turn out in large numbers for Alan Keyes in the 812 races he’s been in. Michael Steele didn’t get any love in Maryland when he ran for governor and neither did Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania. Obama has obviously attracted large portions of the African-American vote because of his stance on the issues, his viability and his personal appeal as a candidate. Once he crossed all those thresholds, then his race helped him with black voters.

The same can now be said of Senator Clinton. If it was so easy for a woman to become president, how come they’re 0-43? Obviously Senator Clinton put herself in the ballgame by running an effective campaign and holding views that appeal to voters. Having said that, after she crossed these thresholds, it has helped her that she is a woman. To deny that would be a little silly. Sixty-five percent of the white women vote goes a long way.

Let me repeat that this doesn’t take anything away from Senator Clinton’s accomplishments. And some can argue that women should be proud to stand together to give their preferred candidate a better shot. But would she still be in this race if she wasn’t a woman? My guess is no.

This article was first published by the Huffington Post.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.