From NBC's Ron Allen
There was a very interesting discussion on the flight back to D.C. from Indianapolis. By the time we landed, the Clinton campaign was proclaiming, "We shocked the world" by winning Indiana. "A win is a win," was the rallying cry, as the margin narrowed.
Meanwhile, the Clinton press team did everything possible to minimize Barack Obama's win in North Carolina. He has a "built-in advantage" there, they said. It was a state where they knew the "demographics" were going to be tough, referring the state's African-American community. Turns out, his margin overall was greater than her's in Pennsylvania.
But Clinton's aides continue to argue she's the stronger nominee, because she continues to do well with the most important voters, crucial swing voters, who will make the difference in a race with John McCain in November, blue-collar and working-class voters, most of whom are white.
But how does a candidate claim to be the strongest and most electable nominee, when that candidate has very little support with some of the Democratic Party's most loyal followers, African-American voters? Wouldn't it be fair to say that ignoring that "demographic" tends to marginalize the significance of those voters, who also historically have felt somewhat taken for granted by Democrats?
When asked about the fact that Obama had won a significant, and apparently growing segment of the African-American community's votes, the response from Clinton's aides was to suggest that, by November, she would be able to heal whatever problems existed. And that she would be able to unite the party, in part, because of the Clinton family's many decades of such a positive record on matters of race and civil rights.
But when asked, well, wouldn't Obama enjoy the support of the segments of the Democratic electorate that have voted for Clinton -- those working-class white voters, the answer was full of doubt and concern. He's relatively new on the political scene. He's not very well known and doesn't have much of a track record, was the essence of their argument. Who knows what might happen?
A few weeks ago, Rep. James Clyburn (SC) made several comments laying out his observations about the Clintons' relationship with the African-American community. Let's just say it's not good, he basically said. And I think most reasonable people would say, the decreasing share of the black vote falling in the Clinton camp of late suggests that relationship is probably not improving.
Here's the point. To win the nomination now, the Clinton strategy, moving on to West Virginia and Kentucky and elsewhere, seems to have little to do with winning over African-American voters.
"We're not conceding any vote," spokesmen often say in conference calls. Yet the places the campaign goes and the people at the events, don't seem to support that contention.
This is a unique moment in the nation's electoral history for many reasons. The black electorate has been flexing its muscle. Today, Clinton's advisors argued that Obama hasn't proven he can win the votes of blue-collar voters, and that's the crux of the argument they'll make to the dwindling pool of undecided superdelegates.
But don't they also have to explain how they'll win over those Democrats now supporting her in single digits, especially since many of them already are convinced a historic victory, unimaginable not long ago, already has been won?