White working class vote still eludes Obama

It may have been Kentucky Derby weekend, but it was that other horse race in America – the political one between the rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination – that continued to demand attention yesterday with two more do-or-die primary contests set for tomorrow in Indiana and North Carolina.

Barack Obama is in grave need of strong results in both states to counter the claims of his opponent Hillary Clinton that he cannot connect with the white working class. Mrs Clinton, lagging behind in delegate numbers, is similarly under pressure to do well – at least coming close in North Carolina and taking Indiana – lest she face renewed pressure to abandon a race many feel has gone on for too long.

The final stretch into tomorrow's voting was dominated by skirmishing over a proposal to lift the federal petrol tax to help hard-pressed working Americans fill their tanks amidst fast-rising prices. The move is backed by Mrs Clinton and John McCain, the Republican nominee, but opposed by Mr Obama.

In a self-assured appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Mr Obama called the tax holiday a "classic Washington gimmick" that would do little good but may spur new demand and push up the base price of petrol even further. They tried the idea in his home state of Illinois and it failed, he said. "I voted for it," he added. "Then six months later we took a look and consumers had not benefited at all. I learned from a mistake."

Mr Obama campaigned intensely across Indiana over the weekend, bringing his wife, Michelle, and their two young children along for a couple of appearances on Saturday – at a merry-go-round and a roller-skating rink – in an attempt to underscore family values to voters. If Mr Obama loses heavily among white and blue collar voters tomorrow, Mrs Clinton will underscore her case to uncommitted super delegates that she will be the better candidate come November.

An Associated Press-Yahoo poll did not offer the Obama camp much respite. It showed that 53 per cent of white adults with no college education viewed the candidate unfavourably, up a dozen points since a similar survey in November. The poll also continued to suggest that white working-class Americans lean overwhelmingly towards Mrs Clinton.

Mr Obama, who scraped past Mrs Clinton in voting in the tiny US Pacific territory of Guam on Saturday, would breathe much easier come tomorrow night if he can prevail in Indiana. "If we win Indiana we've got the nomination," he said last week. He admitted on NBC that whatever the outcome he expects Mrs Clinton to keep fighting through to the last primaries on 3 June.

But winning Indiana will be tough with polls showing him trailing slightly. Helping Mr Obama, at least, are large concentrations of black voters in Indianapolis, in the state's centre, and around the gritty city of Gary, which lies just across the border from southern Illinois, where he lives.

Uncertain is how his resistance to the petrol tax holiday will play with voters in Indiana and North Carolina. Numerous economists have voiced their own disapproval of what Mrs Clinton and Mr McCain are proposing, which at best could save families 30 cents a day. "I was appalled by Hillary going with the gas tax," said Alice Rivlin, the budget director under Bill Clinton.

Mr Obama has stood his ground on the issue. "Only in Washington can you get away with calling someone out of touch when you're the one who thinks that 30 cents a day is enough to help people who are struggling," he said. "I think the American people are smarter than Washington gives them credit for."

His win in Guam by just seven votes may have been a fillip, but only a small one. The territory will send only four delegates to the party convention – two for each of the candidates.

On Meet the Press, Mr Obama admitted that the continuing noise surrounding the Rev Jeremiah Wright "wasn't welcome" for his campaign, but added: "I think that the American people understand that when I joined Trinity United Church of Christ I was committing not to Pastor Rev Wright, I was committing to a church and I was committing to Christ."

Mrs Clinton, speaking on ABC, said both campaigns "should definitely move on" from the Wright affair.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor