March 18th, 2008
12:44 PM ET

White men and the Obama campaign

Today in Philadelphia, Senator Barack Obama talked a lot about race and politics WATCH, but when you look at the numbers, it may be white men who decide the fate of his campaign.


Neither Obama nor Senator Hillary Clinton have been able to secure the white man’s vote, a voting block now considered to be swing voters.

Turns out, working class white men make up nearly one quarter of the electorate, outnumbering African-American and Latino voters combined.  In 27 states where exit polls were conducted, Clinton won the white male vote 11 times, Obama won it ten times. In five states, they basically split the votes of white men.

The allegiance of these guys, generally defined as union members making less than $50,000 a year, is clearly still up for grabs and the candidates know it.

In Philadelphia, the union members I talked to for my story on tonight's 360°weren’t exactly shy about making their positions known.

Rick Czyzewski, a steel worker and member of Local 19 Sheetmetal Workers union here in Philadelphia, told me he’s voting for Clinton.

When I asked him what it will take for Obama to win the working class white man’s vote here, he said, "He’s gotta come out and talk to us and tell us what he wants to do with the economy. I don’t know if he said anything. All I hear is, change, change, what type of change does he got for us? I don’t know. Is he gonna tell us he wants more construction jobs."

Here in Pennsylvania, working class male voters make up about 27 percent of the voters. Obama won the white man’s vote in Wisconsin and Virginia, but he badly lost working class white men to Clinton in Ohio and Texas just a couple of weeks ago.  Did Race play a role? In Ohio, 27 percent of working class male voters said race did play a role in choosing Clinton.

Czyzewski said race doesn’t play a role for him, adding "I’m a union individual I’m thinking about what they can do for my union. I think the dems are split between Obama and Hillary and I think Hillary is a better union person than Obama is."

I asked roofer Bob Merk, a Clinton supporter here in Philadelphia, what he thinks about the race factor.  He told me, "I don’t think race is an issue at all... I don’t care if he’s black white or green, I would vote for him."  Merk told me Clinton has his vote unless Obama starts "standing up for the working man." He says, "I’d want to hear a guarantee of jobs, that the price of gasoline is gonna come down, I want to hear about better schools for my kids."

Some analysts have suggested Obama needs to talk more about his experience as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side, where he worked with steelworkers and their families. Maybe even spend more time in VFW halls listening and relating to the working class voter. There’s talk within his campaign reportedly of working to show he is a bottom-up grass-roots person who has been about fighting for people who were squeezed out of jobs.

– Randi Kaye, 360° Correspondent 

Program note: Watch Randi's report tonight on 360° at 10p ET and read other blogs from the 360° team of contributors at cnn.com/360

soundoff (293 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Neither has been able to secure the white male vote because neither candidate has CARED about the white male vote, they have been too worried about securing black and latino votes. It's a little late to pretend they care about us now, I refuse to vote for either of them. I used to be a democrat but they betrayed me a few too many times in recent years, and I can't stand Mccain either. I'll be voting for whomever the best INDEPENDENT candidate is, even if that means voting Nader.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  2. Unbelievable

    You call Obama racist for absolutely no reason. I can live my life with nothing but white leaders, white politicians, white CEO's, white Teachers,white police officers and so many more, and respect them as people and give them the benefit of the dought, no matter what society tells me, no matter how much hatred and racism i've seen and heard of. As a black woman I will still respect these people and never assume they are racist because of what someone they know thinks. I'm curious people that are reading do you have friends are family who say racist things and would you like people to judge you because of them.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  3. Diana Joubert

    Why does the media work so hard to put us all into neat little groups? white men, Latino women, older white women.....seems a bit racist, sexist, agist to me.

    We're all struggling with the same issue – survival.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  4. John

    I was an Obama diehard until I began hearing the racially offensive clips by rev. Wright. How can one take Senator Obama at his word claiming to be the one that can bring unity to this country?? Senator Obama still defended his bigot pastor? How can you trust someone to lead this nation running with the primary principle of “Change” while having been indoctrinated by a racist individual such as pastor Wright ?

    March 18, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  5. Geff of Boston

    When Obama started his campaign he told us that hid great quality
    is that of having good judgement in his decision making, and being the one capable of bringing people together. He said that he was the only one who showed good judgement in saying in a speech that we should not invade Iraq. Now the good Senator seems to say one thing,
    and do the opposite. He has shown very poor judgement in respect to
    his associate Rezko and Wright his pastor. The saying " You can fool
    some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time." truly belongs to Senator Obama.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  6. Kevin, Fl

    2 points- Either Obama agrees with what his pastor stands for, or was too timid to seperate himself. Either way I am very worried. He made this a race issue. He made it seem like I was in church listening to what happened to african americans long ago. He is saying that this country is divided. This is going to do more harm then good.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  7. cdoc

    Some of you are so ignorant. You don't even hear Obama referring to Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson (referring to the "now that we have a brother in office" comment). Most people would be quick to defend their pastor as well, even when he or she may be wrong. That is not to say he agreed. If you did listen to his speech, YES, he did condemn his pastor's words. This is simply another weak attempt to discredit him because people can not find anything else. This has NOTHING to do with the election. What a wonderful distraction for the losing Clinton campaign. This is why educatiion is important for everyone. Ignorance is bliss. Stay in school people!!

    March 18, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  8. Ralph

    black,white,yellow or green, any man voting for obama or clinton has to be out of his mind. Obama and his pastor are full of hate towards this country and the white man. GOD HELP US ALL!!!

    March 18, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  9. Tyrone Johnson

    When the Black Congressional Congress allows whites to join, then I'll vote for a black president.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:08 pm |
  10. Armando

    It's funny to sit here and read about half of you bashing Obama and the other half bashing Clinton.

    Both of your candidates are terrible. Period.

    I don't need to back that up with facts; you're all doing that for me....

    March 18, 2008 at 4:08 pm |
  11. Julian

    Cindi, Latino voters have always been strongly for Clinton. Never I think have they ever been considered swing voters.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:07 pm |
  12. Tari from NE

    Just because someone close to you has specific beliefs does not mean you share them. I love and respect my parents but lord knows I do not share thier opinions or beliefs about everything! To say that Sen. Obama is a racist is saying he rejects his own mother's race, half of who he is. People move on so he can get back to what is important, the economy, the war and health care. I really have not heard anything better coming out of Sen. Clinton's camp to make me think that she would be a better candidate.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  13. Jeanne

    If Sen Obama, grew up in the same America as all of us, and him being an Africian American, with slavery is his past, explain how he was provided with the opportunities he has obvioulsy taken advantage of by attending ivy league schools, etc. . I'll tell you how, all opportunities are open to anyone who lives in this great country America. It is up to you to take advantage, work very hard etc. I am tired of hearing about slavery. I do not deny that slavery existed, but come on now, that was a very, very long time ago. Do Africian Americans not realize that people of their own country were responsible for selling their people as slaves? I believe instead of preaching in your churches about the history of Black Americans, encouraging hatrated against anyone other than Black Americans should stop. How about preaching about family, education etc. Education is the key along with hard work and if you think it works any differently for the rest of us your wrong. Black Americans are living in slavery because the perputuiate it. Why not work with your children to educate them, make them sit down and study, and don't tell me that the schools are inferior, you are still being taught the same way in all schools, its just that some Black Students dont invest the work involved to get ahead. I have work hard my entire life to get where I am today and I am just able to take care of myself. In stead of looking for handouts or the easy way out, why not try working for it?

    March 18, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  14. rebecca

    I'm impressed with how easily manipulated many of you are. You take the few little bits of tape of inflammatory remarks by Wright, which the Republicans are only too happy to play over and over, and you jump to the conclusion that this guy talks like this all the time, in every sermon, every week. You obviously can't stop and consider this in a more complex way, or even listen wtih an open mind to the actual speech that Obama gave.

    People get the kind of government they deserve. The easier your buttons are to push, the less attention candidates have to pay to your actual needs and issues.

    And to those people who "don't know" what policies someone stands for, you're already on the internet – go look them up.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  15. Bonnie

    You know, it's headlines like this that do nothing to improve the lives of Americans. Headlines like this one do nothing but enhance the divisiveness that destroys our country. I respect anyone's right to vote for whomever they choose, however, I reject any notion that a particular race, ethnicity, class, gender, or political party will "decide" any election. We are not numbers. We are not statistics. We all are living breathing human beings who want to be able to work to earn money to pay for our food, our healthcare, and our educations. I am voting for Senator Obama because he inspires me to recognize my own complicity in divisiveness and my own responsibility to make my life better. He speaks a truth that is difficult for people to hear, that–even if as some of you claim, is motivated by politics–acknowledges one of the biggest problems in this country and asks others to consider, learn, and think. It is not a matter of white or black male or female. We are ALL Americans. And we should work together to make this country a better place for our children. I hope everyone here who is "hating" on the Senator and demanding "specifics" will go to his website and actually do their own research rather than depending on anyone else's words. That is the first step. Learning.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  16. FC

    I was going to vote for Obama until I saw the video of his pastor of 20 years spewing hate towards the white man. I am the white man.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  17. Alex

    Obama's speech today showed me he's apologetic and sympathetic to Rev. Wright's racist speech. He just lost my vote...

    March 18, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  18. Are you Serious?

    The stuff I'm reading is unbelievable. To think that Obama is racist is just hateful. I hoped America was better then that. I quess my black children will continue to deal with this and I must prepare them that no matter what racism will never end. I'm so sad that some people couldn't see how amazing his speech was.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:03 pm |
  19. tom

    What would the backlash be if Obama were white and belonged to a predominately white church that expoused a white racist position? Would we hear Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton and others calling for a black boycott of this candidate and for him to drop out of the race? I think we all know the answer to that question and for better or worse that kind of precedent has been set for years by leaders of the black community.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:02 pm |
  20. Anthony Smith

    I think that Obama's true colors are shining through...no pun! You don't have to look any further than his Church and his constituency. Why is it that it took 25 years in TV for Oprah to finally endorse someone? Why do 80-90% of blacks support Obama yet white people vote across the board? Obviously, affirmative action has finally paid off! Put race and everything out the window, he is not as qualified as Clinton or McCain...PERIOD!!!
    Wildwood Crest, NJ

    March 18, 2008 at 4:02 pm |
  21. cary

    WHY is Obama talking about race only when he thinks it will help his campaign? He avoided talking about race when he thought it wouldn't help his campaign. He' s an opportunist I think, and disingenuous.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:01 pm |
  22. Andrea

    To those calling Obama a liar –

    FYI, he did NOT lie to AC360 when he said that he hadn't heard the remarks made by his pastor until they were publicized by the media at the beginning of his campaign. He made this statement in direct reference to the infamous youtube videos.
    As CNN themselves report in the recent article summarizing today's speech:
    "Obama was not, as some reports placed him, in attendance the day Wright delivered the well-publicized comments, according to his campaign."
    In his speech, yes, Obama does admit to hearing controversial remarks in church. However, whatever he heard is SEPARATE & DISTINCT from the 2 sermons currently being circulated in the media.

    OBAMA '08

    March 18, 2008 at 4:01 pm |
  23. Bob

    My white grandmother walked into a funeral parlor once to bury her husband. The owner was white, the worker she was trying to deal with was black. The white owner made some odd comments about the worker, to which my grandmother proceeded to spout out a string of racial slurs against white people and left.

    The worker was shocked and called her at home later. He didn't know you could be a bigot against your color, especially if was white. My grandmother responded that she was just a bigot against bigots. He offered her a place run by a younger person who he assured him was all right.

    See her husband was black. Neither white nor black funeral parlors would bury my grandfather. The place that was recommended did bury him, but only after charge my grandmother more than any other white women. They were black.

    He was a sweet, loving man. Even in death the bigots were against him. That was just over 13 years ago in "liberal" California.

    And yes white people are still bigots.
    And so are black people.

    I've seen both sides.

    Obama is right. We can't hide from this any longer. And he is right, he can't do a damn thing except inspire the nation to change. It is up to us. Don't be lazy, don't look for somebody to change this country, Obama is asking a very important thing: Start the change yourself.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm |
  24. T.Faison

    It is very discouraging to read some of the comments on this blog. I am a Black woman, and the majority of my friends are white. Towing that line for a Black person is something most of America will not understand. Not speaking or looking too 'Black', especially in an office setting. Have my friends said things that were prejudiced? Yes! What that did however was open a discussion of where those comments or thoughts came from, how they were raised & how to change it. Did I disown them as friends, one of which even dated & shared some of the views of a skinhead? No! Knowing me has allowed some of them to see first hand some of the racism in ths country. You will never 100% agree with someone. To suggest that even though one may not fully agree with another’s values, thoughts or opinions you still cannot learn about them and yourself is foolish.

    A majority of people do not REALLY know our history. Thoughts & words passed down from generation to generation without knowing why. Many people of color Latin, Black, Asian have to walk that fine line in order to succeed in this country. Are we ready, truly ready to see past this? I still hold out hope that you listen to the message. If you listened blindfolded to all of our candidates before you knew anything about them, would you hold on to the same thoughts & assumptions?

    March 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm |
  25. Skeptics

    "Change" is not a message, it's just a word. It is easy to make promises, but a very different thing to keep them. Obama's inexperience is showing.

    March 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm |
  26. Terrence'

    I ask any Obama supporter reading this to respond with specific reasons you are supporting him. Hope? Change? garbage. At least be honest – becasue he's black? because you hate republicans? What about all the support Hillary had until this guy came around. GIVE ME DETAILS, not hope and change......

    March 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  27. docrock,tx

    If the so-called "preacher"that Obama listened to and believed to be honest for twenty years,and a spiritual leader as well,this man needs his head examined.I voted twice for Hillary in the texas election,caucus,and plan on doing so again.I saw his apologetic speech,but he did nothing to ease my mind about the hate-filled rhetoric he has raised his family on.He scares me badly.Don't even try to say that AA's are not racially bigoted towards whites,because ihave lived and worked in America for nearly sixty years.Liars always destroy themselves.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  28. brian

    Obama is a joke and his pastor has cost him the general election! MCCain will now trounce obama. Obama has lost the majority of white votes now.

    All you obama fans-enjoy it while it lasts!! Like bill clinton said- it was a fairy tale!

    March 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  29. luke15

    Unfortunately Les, it has become an obligation of Sen. Obama to consistently prove that he is a Christian and not a "radical muslim" as smear campaigns have set out to demonstrate to the those Americans vulnerable to extremist fear-mongering. In doing so, he has been forced to invite everyone to examine and scrutinize the viability of his religious practices. The inclusion of religion in his campaign is more the product of having to neutralize the rampant ignorance regarding race and religion in this country than it does with any will of his to make religion a major component of his message.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  30. roy CA

    brendon. you are unfortunately uninformed and seemingly closed in your world causing you to forever remain frightened. don't be afraid. the white house and obama's cabinet will comprise a multitude of talented people representing the united states which includes you. much luv.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  31. megawoman1967

    I am concerned with Obama's (previously stated) alliance and allegiance to Reverend Wright. Wright is racist and appears to be anti-American. He does not appear to support our government, either; we can expect him to criticize in hopes of offering "change", but it is unacceptable for Wright to have made the negative comments regarding who is at fault for 9/11. Obama has openly supported this ill-informed, poorly-spoken racist who also demonstrated a lack of control and respect as he addressed and criticized the Caucasians in his very own congregation. Obama is about race...

    March 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  32. breh / California

    If you were for OBAMA at the start of this race, then the rantings of Rev. Wright will stir you as it should, but not serve as an indictment of the Senator, because you have come to know his heart. Don't be swayed but the pundits that what to use this to continually divide the Democratic Party and the Country. What OBAMA did today is unprecedented. He faced this issue head-on and dealt with it, not hide behind his spokesperson as we've seen so many candidates do in the past. IT'S TIME TO PUT THIS TO REST. Those of you who wish to see this as guilt by association, then stay in that one place and allow the rest of us to move to the nomination.

    OBAMA 08!

    March 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  33. CLM

    Willie Robinson – you really don't get it do you – why is it ok that there is a Miss Black America, NAACP awards, Black Pride Day, Black History Month ( to name a few). If there a Miss White America, White only awards, White Pride Day, and White History Month they would be labeled racist. Willie, can you look in the mirror and say RACIST

    March 18, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  34. roger

    It's amazing as we can see from the variety of comments that his absolutely amazing speech didn't really put a dent in anyone's perceptions. Which ironically was his whole point.

    People who thought or think he is a radical racist who is going to start the black revolution will hear the speech and take out what they want to confirm those views.

    People like myself who support him do not need to be convinced that he is what this nation desperately needs. It is not enough for people who like him to believe in him. For him to do the change that he wants he needs to reach those who dislike him, those who are unsure and those who are scared to vote for a black candidate.

    For me personally it was one of the most passionate speeches I have ever heard on race relations, next to MLK of course. I think even if I was not a supporter of him, I would have to at least give him that credit (but I see that those people cannot)

    March 18, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  35. frank

    Who is Obama kidding? Everyone to some extent is a rascist. We are only human.

    However for the past forty years our country has made great progress to overcome rascism. Martin Luther King was great leader because his vision for America transcended race, religion, gender or politics. Rather, a man should be seen and judged not by the color of his skin but hischaracter and integrity. Today, opportunities are available to all who work hard and want to get ahead.

    Now, Obama presents himself as a candidate for unity, change and hope for a better future. Those are just empty words, words, words. How can you speak for unity when you are a member of a church for the past twnty years that spews hate and encourages division. I do not need to repeat anything other than "GOD Damm America".

    Everyone exercisesjudgement in the company one chooses. Typically, people associate with people who sare common values and beliefs. Obama has aligned himself with likes of Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson.

    Now, I know why Obama won't wear a flag lapel pin, place his hand over his heart during the pledge of allegiance, and Michelle Obama just now is proud of America. What she really meant to say is I am really proud of the Nation of Islam.

    I will never vote for someone who this country the USA of KKK.

    By the way, where is is Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? They sure pipe up when Don Imus makes a race comment. I get it it is okay to run Imus through the fire but not them.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  36. Chris

    It is clear this country has such a long way to go. The media continues to pit on group over another to make other groups feel unimportant and decieved. Is this because we have no other "playbook"? It's easier to blame and fight one another than looking in the mirror and make a commitment not to participate in a ANCIENT war. Shame on us all!

    March 18, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  37. JC in SC

    Diane in Idaho
    No defense of your Pastor for 20 years is necessary. But you don't attend a church where you disagree adamantly with the theological and sociological philosophies of him or her, do you? And don't those philosophies have the potential to dramatically affect the way you look at the world? Do we want a Prez who has listened to and supported this mind set . . . for a day, much less 20 years? I don't want a Prez who has listened to and bought into the philosophies that you speak of having been tolerated by white pastors of 200+ years either!

    March 18, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  38. Jay

    Any chance Obama might pay back that FREE RIDE College education all the working class workers paid for?
    My white kids have school loans going into the next decade.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  39. Kjell

    As a European, I laugh when Americans vote for a man,who is a talker(bla,bla,bla) and nothing else(Obama Hussein).Time to wake up.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  40. YB

    How many Republicans does it take stir up the Democrats and keep them fighting while the economy falls apart, wall street is bailed out, folks loose jobs, the environment detriorates, health care becomes less affordable......(then John McCain is sworn in to continue the Bush legacy, pick the next set of supreme court justices, start another war with Iran, hire Halliburton in a no-bid contract to clean up, raise gas prices to $6 a gallon)? Hmmm

    Pick a candidate, vote and then get back to work. We've got a lot of cleaning up and rebuilding to do.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  41. vera t

    Where is the apology he owes to Ms Ferraro? If it's alright for his pastor to spew hate why couldn't he and his campaign staff understand where her remarks come from? Guess he still expects special treatment. NO DOUBLE STANDARD! If he cries racist at her supporters then he better do a whole lot more explaining why Wright should get a free pass.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  42. Independent

    One question for those who blame Obama for attending his church: Where do you expect him to go? Another black church? A white church where his wife and children have no connection with? What would you do if you were black?

    March 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  43. Steven

    All these union people voting for Clinton???? I always thought one of the first things they taught you is YOU CAN'T shop at WAL-MART!!!! For God's sake Hillary was on Wal-Mart's Board...Not following Union protocal. Go Figure!!!

    March 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
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