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. Rahni, Connecticut

    I’m an African-American woman and I voted for a white president. Why is person running for President of different ethnicity, race or gender must prove themselves to the white dominate male culture? Just because the minister preached and said some negative remarks, why condemn everybody in the church. I pretty sure, that all the previous white presidents’ ministers had said the same racially charge remarks in their church.

    Please stop condemning Obama. He is NOT David Dukes!

    Rahni, Connecticut

    March 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  2. Smarter than the Clinton Supporters

    Not to mention that Obama grew up poor, where as, Billary didn't live the hard life ever. He spent years helping and defending poor people. I can't recall any kind of community service that the Clintons have ever performed that even measure up to what Obama has done. To say that he has to prove himself and that he appeals to high class voters is ridiculous.

    If anything, he should be appealing to the low income, down and out families becaus has stayed on the issues and is a foundation for change. He's the only one we've got, because McCain will beat Hillary, and even if he doesn't, Hillary doesn't care about the broke folks. She's rich and in the know. She is status quo. Get back to reality.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  3. SP


    March 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  4. Shame on You

    Obama supporters unite. His message is still the same. He has stated over and over again he disagrees with the comments. Labeling by association is a dirty game and we are above that.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  5. IveyLeague5

    Come on people. Obama has said much about the issues facing the working class!

    Obama has a FREE download on his website called Blueprint for Change. Stop listening to 15 sec sound clips on the news.

    Read about both candidates. Or, just say, I feel more comfortable with a white person. The Clinton's are full of scandals. No outrage. Bill Clinton openly lied to the American people saying with indignation, "I did not have sexual relations with woman, Ms. Lewinsky!" But, that's forgive-able. Hilliary was investigated openly regarding White Water; she was "fortunate" to have the lost papers found years later... in the White House.

    It's okay to choose someone due to racial comfort. But, with our present day issues, it's not the smartest decision. I urge all to read.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  6. John G.

    Mr. Obama just gave the most inspirational speeche I have ever heard. I am a white male, 58 years old, have four kids and a middle class income. We need someone who can inspire our "better angels". Lincoln did it and so can Obama. He just got my vote!

    March 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  7. Southern Cal.

    I cannot trust Obama. He's no different than Spitzer – horrifically bad judgment. No way should this guy be leading our country. How could you associate yourself so closely for 20 years with someone who hates America so much? Did he think no one would notice?

    March 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  8. Pat, FL

    If the situation was reverse and Hillary's pastor said somethign racially motivated, the press and the campaign pundits would have made it such a big mess. Obama is clearly getting the break because people are afariad of being lablled racist. Clearly we have seen that in the past weeks. I think he is a very calculated and politically savy person. He is in a good spot. But, being a working class white american, I do not care about the race. All I care is how do I put more food on the table for my kids, how do I get better education for them, how do I take care of my health. I have not heard a single bullte point action plan about these from either Clinton or Obama. Damn you guys... you should run for presidency in Hell....not the USA. Give me an action plan so I can vote for you.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  9. new york

    Thanks to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, McCain is our next president

    March 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  10. Kevin

    Barack Obama has the support of a large number of white voters in the United States. Obama's overwhelming wins in states such as Vermont, Maine, and Iowa all demonstrate this fact. We want people to see that Obama's campaign for the presidency is one of gender, class, and racial UNITY. Through his supporters—who judge Barack not by the color of his skin, but by the contents of his character—the world can bear witness to the genesis of a more unified and dignified United States of America.

    It won't be long before those without access to the internet learn first-hand the good Obama has done, and what he means by the "change" that they hear about. They will come to see that it is more than just a word, as the majority of democrats have now come to see.
    Visit our site to see some of the solidarity of this campaign: whitefolksforobama(dot)org

    March 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  11. Jamie

    I think its really unfortunate that people hold Reverend Wright's comments against Obama. Everyone has their own opinion, which is uniquely their own. Just because he attends the Reverend's church, doesn't make he agrees with everything he says or is a racist.

    Anyone that has taken the time to follow Obama's life and his stance on certain issues should know that he is certainly not racist. His first book, written over 10 years ago is a true depiction of his feelings and opinions. I hope a large percentage of voters will take the time to research these things, rather than jump to conclusions. Let's all take the time to make educated, informed decisions.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  12. Chris

    I was totally in favor of Obama until I heard this ranting, racist pastor. I'm tired of the blame game against whites... blacks have forfeited the gains of the Civil Rights era by embracing ghetto culture. I thought that he could elicit compromise, but you don't go to someone's church for 20 yrs. without agreeing with what they say. BTW... slavery still exists, in Africa, today!! Why not get pissed about that, instead of blaming whites today for something that happened 400 yrs ago? One more point... many whites also helped to END slavery...

    March 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  13. jean jos

    For a Presidential nominee who speaks about "uniting the country",Mr Obama has done more to damage race relations than anyone in the last 40 years. He is an inflamer and has learned well from his pastor. Hillary is our only hope.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  14. Scotty

    I don't think that Obama is a racist. I think his pastor is a quack and a coward for not coming forward during this difficult time for Obama. What kind of man does that especially a pastor? If you a brave enough to make these comments, then you should be brave enough to stand up or defend them.
    It has been my understanding that in the black church that the reverend, pastor, or preacher does not say and do things like this. This Reverend Wright, I believe, is the exception and a total disgrace to the word of GOD.
    I hope that most people in America will take this into consideration because we all know someone who has ran his or her mouth and put their foot in it.
    Honestly, I think he has taken advantage of Obama by making these statements [when Obama was not in church] to put himself in the media light. Whoever put up those videos, I bet is sorry now because it didn't have the effect they were looking for. More so than that, I think this Reverend White may have been jealous of Obama and all the attention he is receiving being a presidential candidate.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  15. Red Rock Bob

    Way to late, shoulld of unloaded his baggage long ago.

    What he has done, not only to himself. But to the others that were supporting him. Color was not the case. It was his Baggage that, he protected , now that it is out , he wants to diclaim it. Yet he still hangs on to it . Obama, get rid of it, an come clean , or get out. For you know they will trash you as is.

    God Bless America.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  16. Mike

    I agree to Claudia. The guy Obama had so many words.
    He can foul his people but he can not do to rest of American people.
    I give my strongest support to Hillary (and also Ferraro too..about her comment to Obama)

    March 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  17. Mike, Arkansas

    to xtina

    If you must know I dont look at experience too much. I do look at what they have done so far.

    Hillary has a very shady past as well as voted for the war, Bill put NAFTA into effect since then jobs went overseas. She claims she didnt know about Blackwater etc.. yet it was the clinton administration that put them to work. She is now against the war, NAFTA and the military contractors (blackwater) etc. How many things is she going to be for then realizes the people are against it and its gone bad that then she wants to fix it or is the only one that can fix it etc. Enough mistakes.

    Obama voted against the war. He has also tried to present laws that would cut the amount of troops in Iraq. He has also sent a military contractor accountability to her committee which she rejected and after 4 years she claims she didnt know contractors were unaccountable? and she was on the committe that overseas this? And as she stated she was involved in her Husbands reign yet she didnt know the Clinton Admin used them?

    Bush has the most experience team in his administration and look what has happened.

    John F. Kennedy was one of the least experienced he had no foreign relation experience yet he did great.

    Experience isnt always best. I do believe in track records though and Obama wins there hands down. Hillary has pages after pages of mistakes. Obama does not.

    That is how I will be voting. Its so obvious when you take the petty things and look at the things that really matter in this world. Race issues at the moment wont determine my vote. Issues do. Track record does. And right now I would rather have Obama in Office than a person who is going to make decisions based on political favors and false accusations of their credibility.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  18. whiteyritey

    It's not Obama's pastor or race that scare me. It's his big government tax and spend ideas...

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  19. marzxyz

    I am a white male, college graduate and registered Independent in my mid 50s. After listening to Obama's speech, I have decided that I will vote for the Democratic nominee. However, I hope that Hillary wins the nomination.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  20. Dfrancs

    Before you call someone a racist, please walk in their shoes and live in their skin. Blacks are reminded everyday that they are black in this society and it takes a lot to keep going on a daily basis. We experience at work, on the street and where we live. This experience alone is enough to shorten once life.

    But we have to keep keeping, we don’t have a choice, we were born with black skin. Since the 2008 voting began I felt a sense of a better society especially when white Americans had over and over voted for Obama. My experience with white people was a very peaceful one until I came to USA 24 years ago from Africa.

    This society is clouded with hate. It's was strange to me when I first got here that a human being will meet another and without any words exchanged, the person with black skin is automatically hated.

    America should show the rest of the world how people from every ethnic should exist as human beings, because there is no other country that has the mix people as America.

    I hope that white America will let the hate of yesterday fade with yesterday and embrace a better future.

    After all some day we all be dead anyway, 100 years from now most people alive to day will be dead. Will race matter to them then. I don’t think so.

    May God help and bless America

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  21. case

    I am sick of the double standard. McCain is supported by someone who related the Pope and Hitler, and talked of the Catholic Church relating it to the holocaust.

    Bush had Bible thumpers who said much worse things after 9/11 and nobody talks about that.

    Double standard from racist America and that is a fact.

    Obama is loosing ground for not separating himself from this fanatic. Extremists on all sides are to blame. Balance is the key. Looks like Clinton has the best balance.

    Independent still for Obama but wavering, and that stinks.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  22. Ilyana

    I cannot see why Obama is being crucified for the comments of his priest. Let's be real if we judged everyone by comments and behavior of their priest many of us would be locked up for life for one crime or the other.

    I often hear comments in church that angers me and some that I endorse wholeheartedly as we all have, but does that make me responsible for my preacher's choice of sermon or message? Can I dictate what should be preached? Not unless I am the preacher.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  23. easterbaby

    Catholics ARE NOT leaving THEIR religion because of things some of their priests have done. All the cases invovling molestations in the Catholic church has not caused a mass exodus of the Catholic religion. The Catholic church was full BEFORE and AFTER the molestations surfaced.

    Why is Obama being treated so cruely about something that he did not say?

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  24. "Middle" Class Male

    I would very much like to support Senator Obama in his chase of change in our government. It is sad to watch what the current administration is doing to this once great country. Unfortunately, he has not outlined this change and seems to be very much a talking head.

    Senator Clinton gets my vote. She has the experience to work within the government and already knows the road blocks and pitfalls to overcome and avoid. Put Senator Obama on the ticket as VP, teach him the political ropes and then let us revisit him making a change after eight years. Yes – EIGHT.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  25. AL

    I am not black or a white person by race. But I hate to see blacks voting for Obama just because he is black. Almost all black are voting for him regardless of what he has to offer which is just wrong. AND I don't see him saying to blacks "Hay please don't what for me for my race but vote for who you think can do a better job" Imagine if whites start voting for Clinton and that's you whites should do. Then you will see him whining about whites voting for her and him. In the mean time he is enjoying the black votes.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  26. Janet

    Obama is just out to win. He stated the he was different from all other candidates that we should hold candidates accountable but then when we catch him in lies he wants us to not hold accountable but to blindly vote for him. NOT HAPPENING

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  27. miked

    After hearing Obama's minister I've changed my mind I will vote for Hillary. I think Obama is as racist, if I associated with people that denagrated blacks I would be a racist by connection. I can't go down that road and take that chance with him, he will devide the country along race lines. He will be a disaster.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  28. rob

    The ugly side of Obama is coming out. So far he is hiding behind the words CHANGE & HOPE. It seems the change he wants is "taking revenge" for the past .He is more polirizing than any one else.
    Let's see how the news media will try to hide his racial views. For sure the media will try their best to hide the other side of OBAMA.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  29. Dahlia, voter from TX

    I think everyone in America should listen to the speech Obama gave today. After you do, nothing else needs to be said. I had to hurry and get my lunch so I could be on time for work and just wanted to hug complete strangers in line because I felt so moved. This is exactly what America needs. UNTIL AND ONLY UNTIL you have watched the speech completely please keep negative comments to yourself. We cannot grow as a nation when people keep saying silly comments. Let's build this better America together!

    Obama '08

    March 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  30. Willie Robinson

    When we examine the word "experience" and the actions behind them for Sen. Clinton, there is also a gap; not to mention her word to publicly post her and former president Bill Clinton's tax returns. There is definitely a gap there.


    March 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  31. John Smith

    Come on, do you all really think Hillary Clinton – the filthy rich millionare spoiled, silver-spoon, trust fund baby – represents the interest of blue collar workers!?!? She's had more money her whole life than any of us will EVER even dream of having, she is more privilaged than anyone reading this news story, and all of her true interests and ambitions are tied to lobbyists and old-school democratic dinosaurs!!

    Obama's reverend is a flat-out racist, I will give you that...he is an ignorant moron who is more racist than most white people in the nation, and anything he says should not have any signifance to any of us or our decision making on who Obama is and what he stands for. If you are making decisions on who will run the most powerful nation in the WORLD based on what a candidate's preacher said, than you should NOT be voting.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  32. hms

    People are trying to justify Obama's association with his pastor by saying that he is just his apstor... Obama can not be held responsible for his views..just like he can't be held responsible for the views of his barber etc...

    Why is Wright on Obama's campaign committee if he is just his pastor???

    March 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  33. stop2think

    One union worker wants, "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.” He might as well vote for Santa. It's too bad that people in this country look to elected officials to guarantee the unguaranteable. Perhaps unions should be more flexible in its own arcane work rules that essentially kill many jobs in union heavy states. Price of gas? Supply and demand, my friend. Better schools? How much more money can we spend on schools so that Johnny can actually read his diploma? People look to government for magical solutions that aren't going to happen. Ultimately, the sad fact is that union member will give his precious vote to the candidate who will lie most and smile while doing it.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  34. Terrence

    Barack Obama was bluntly honest today in his speech. If White Males cannot stomach honesty then I guess they will vote for the other candidate.

    However, I do not think that a majority of White Males are that shallow!

    March 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  35. John In Ohio

    Claudia, all that I can say is that it appears that you have not been following the campaign. Obama has clearly stated goals with respect to the elimination of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy while offering tax relief for those in the $50k region. I don't believe that you have "examine(d) his words."

    March 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  36. Martin

    It really makes me sad to see that people don't understand the issues and what each candidate stands for. If Pennsylvanians had been watching the elections before their own, they would know what Obama stands for. Everything they want Obama has. They just don't know it. Obama has repeatedly said that he would give tax breaks to the middle class and raise taxes for the wealthy. He has repeatedly said that he wants to get rid of dependence on foreign oil by creating less pollutant fuels that can be made here in the United States. He has repeatedly said that he wants to give jobs back to the American people, and he has also said that he wants to make education more affordable. Everything that Pennsylvanians are worried about is right in front of their faces. Obama is the right one to pick, and it worries me that the public doesn't understand that. Do some research first. Then pick your candidate. Don't be as ignorant as Texas and Ohio by basing your opinion off of one speech or debate. Get online and look the stuff up because if you're voting without doing adequate research, you are doing an injustice to the American people.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  37. Ben

    I don't know if it's Obama fate as much as it is America's fate. Will America confront the issue of race front and centre or will it bury it's head in the sand?

    March 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  38. Ben

    Pennsylvanians should not be put off by his eloquence – his words have the ability to inspire and unite... two things that Clinton is less effective at – and the two reasons that Obama will get more things done for the lower-middle class. The last thing that the working class needs is the republican resurgance that would likely follow the more abrasive Clinton candicacy...

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  39. Shapearl-Chicago

    To Wully Bully it is sad that after hearing the speech on unifying this country into a perfect union, individuals such as yourself small-minded and ignorant continue to try to divide this country in half. If you would listen with a open-mind you will see the greatness of Barack Obama words and his appeal to end the division among us. This country has been divided for centuries and it is only getting worse. Until everyone on both sides put down your swords and pick up that Holy Bible that we all should live by and read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ . When Jesus talks about loving each other. As Jesus speaks he states how can you say that you love me that you don't see yet hate your brother that you do see. It is time to end the racial divisions among blacks and whites in this country and to begin the healing process for America to grow.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  40. Dudley

    All the speeches and speechwriters cannot change my opinion about Wright. And any American that goes to that Church and applauds when Wright make sthese commnets is anti-American. Anyone that goes to this church know exactly what the Pastor has been saying for years and to claim that they were unaware of this is unbelievable.
    To come out now and reject these comments is hypocrisy

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  41. michele hemenway

    This show and this reporter, as he likes to represent himself when he tears up over Katrina survivors is so blatantly anti Obama , its no surprise. I thought I would come here and see an honest analysis, not yet another one of his shows/blogs where he is anti Obama.

    Obama has talked endlessly about schools in need, changes needed in education, college tuition help for working class kids, etc.
    People hear what they want from the person they feel most open to listening to. Any psych major can tell you that. The gov made it clear no candidate of color had a chance in this state, so who does Mr. Cooper interview about Obama, white men in that state.
    Imagine that!

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  42. Smarter than the Clinton Supporters

    It's funny that all you union folks say, "What is Obama going to do?" "He hasn't proven anything to us."

    If you look back, Bill Clinton is the reason you can't negotiate pay. NAFTA took away all of the jobs, and being a recent college graduate, I am finding out firsthand how difficult it is. Hillary Clinton up until recently was a big supporter of NAFTA, aka, let's make more revenue and pay less expenses. Speaking of, where are her tax forms, because I'm sure NAFTA benefitted her and Billy Clint.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  43. Brendon

    Obama isn't for the white people-period. He is for the blacks and he will staff his cabinet with blacks and favor legislation that provides more "give away" programs and financial/education aid for blacks.

    Voters may not see race, but Obama sees race and he see black.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  44. LBW

    I agree that Obama's mentor and minister will cost him some votes. Such a hateful man. I won't vote for hate either.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  45. Burgh

    I had a priest that molested little boys for years. Does that make me a pervert or a molester? It is not justifiable to assume that all who hear Obama's pastor speak agree with everything that he has to say.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  46. Jay in Seattle

    Ohhh gaawwdddd... Here NOBAMA goes again >>> time to talk about issues HILLIARY has not only talked about this whole campaign but has brought solutions to her WHOLE LIFE!

    This man does NOTHING but take ideas from other people! He has NO EXPERIENCE FOLKS!


    Thank god with all the DRAMA over the past 4 days Clinton won't have to worry about putting him on the ticket any longer.

    We all know that the Republicans are going to make the campaign about EXPERIENCE and STRENGTH in a time of war.


    Imagine CLINTON with a 4-star General as her VP!



    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  47. Sara M

    CNN, home of the Censor and Obama love-fest.

    Obama is a racist hyppocrit, doesn't have a clue about what it means to be poor, and should have been a preacher, not a presidential contestant.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  48. Delores Methvin

    I wonder why he didn't end his speech with GOD BLESS AMERICA?

    He came across to me as not being sincere in his Christian Belief.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  49. Indiana

    Obama's community organizing and his being raised by a single mom show that he knows about the middle class far better than Hillary Clinton does. With the Clintons, we're just getting same ol', same ol'...

    The question is not only who is for change (Obama), but who can get beyond partisanship to actually make change (Obama again)...

    As far as hate goes, Obama clearly denounced the words of his pastor – that's all I needed to hear.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  50. foday

    Obama will not solve all our problems created by bush and this endless spending in the war. We should hold all of those accountable of those who vote for war. Sorry those who think Obama does not connect with working class and so does Clinton and even more. As long as this war goes on so is our deficit increase and dollar will fall. those who think Hillary is for walking people think of the economic problem and how we ge there. The war in the middle east.?

    March 18, 2008 at 2:23 pm |
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