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. Kevin

    I supervise a union workforce and my dad has been in the uaw for 39yrs. Union jobs will never be at their1970's and 1980's levels. Those days are over no matter who the president is, this is a fact.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:52 pm |
  2. Ron

    I really thought that there was no possible way the Democratic party could screw up this presidental election. However, they have managed to do so...I was clearly for Obama until the last couple of weeks. We do not need racial battles for the next 6 months and that is what will happen if he wins the nomination. How is it possible that we (Democrats) do not have a better candidate??? We needed John Edwards. As of this moment, I have absolutely no idea who to vote for–the economy is on the brink of total collapse, we are in a war without end, I'm spending $60 every 3rd day on gas to get to work, and all the news media wants to talk about is irrelevant blabber about comments from a retired minister. OUT COUNTRY IS OUT OF WACK.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:52 pm |
  3. Tom C

    Let's see. When the steelmills were going under, Obama was out there providing community service to help my union brothers make it through those troubled time. Where was Hillary? I am Catholic, some of our priests are child molesters, so therefore you all are to assume that I believe in child molestatation? Guilt by association can be a very destructive instrument and one must understand that. Let's investigate all the candidates ministers, former misisters, ministers they have had contact with and dig up the biggest pile of crap we can on everyone. I do not want a Bush or slick Willy and Hilly in the white house, the country has had enough of them.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  4. Jonathan

    Yet Obama is a working class man and Hillary and Bill are wroth $37million. You people need to use your brains.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  5. James

    Another 30,000 people gone from Delta airline? Not many "working-class" left to worry about. That's the way they want it – black, white or rainbow-stripe. The only color that matters now is GREEN. And even that ain't worth much these days.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  6. Joba

    Talk is cheap. What exactly are Obama's strategic plans??? We all know he is a great motivational speaker but that WON'T PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE of American families.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  7. John McCoy

    It seems Obama's speech today had something for everybody-isn't that what every "slick" politician does? Is he really different?

    March 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  8. Jimmy Coakley

    Obama's speech today was all about, uh I guess I lied.

    I was an Obama supporter, but am no longer.

    I will not vote for a racist into the White house.

    I hope all those dewy eyed fools who supported him because of his smooth talk are enlightened soon.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  9. Thomas Eugene

    Obama is no longer on my list for consideration after hearing his apologia on behalf of the hateful reverend. To subject his children to this type of hatred in a modern day church is inexcusable and borders on child abuse. He can get away with that garbage in Chicago, but not in the heartland-inexcusable-I hope he's finished.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  10. Idaho

    i was a voter for obama until i started hearing all the bad stuff from the media, ie. he won't wear the american flag, his wife stating she's never been proud of her country until now, etc. i haven't heard of anything that he has done politically as a senator, but all i know that it seems like he's just worried about his race all the time. you never hear anything else, except for him backing up his african-american color. if he wants to become the president, he's going to have to live with that, and not make everything about it. there are plenty of other conficts going on this this country, and we don't just want to sit back and always hear who offended him yesterday. that's just my opinion. talk politics...talk about what he will do for the country...talk about the changes he claims that he will make once put into the office! not just about who called him what on the news.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  11. Len Nassi

    Plain and simple; if Sen. Obama is tied into radical or controversial black leaders, there will be, unfortunately, a white backlash. That's my opinion.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  12. Prolamin

    Obama cares nothing about whites, only votes, I will move to Canada if he is elected

    March 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  13. wisconsin

    I think obama is doing a great job speaking his views! go obama

    March 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  14. Peggy

    How could a person who was smart enough to be the head of the Harvard Law Review be so dumb as not to see the church he goes to is a racist church?? It was not only what the Pastor said it was the response of the congregation in the background that ran chills up my spine. He's attended and been a memeber of this community for 20 years and he never noticed the racial bigotry there?? I dont believe that for a minute and he has stated that he is remaining in that community because he is comfortable there. Now,.. I understand what was behind Michelle Obamas remarks about not ever being proud of her country until now. AT the very least the president of the USA has to be a patriot. And this man is patently not a patriot. My family freed their slaves and gave them all land to own before the emancipation proclamation. My ancestors fought and died for Barak Obama's freedom in the Civil War, I supported MLK and the freedom movement as a young woman and this really hurts me to see this attitude still thriving after 35 years. I was ready to vote for him, not this time but down the road when he had a bit more experience but no more. He is not a team player either, he is a diva, a team player would accept that after 35 years of hard work for the party, the working class and Americans of all color, Hillary Clinton has earned the right to run for President and he wouldnt be doing this. I shudder to think what John McCain will do to him if he gets nominated. That Republican war machine will eat Obama alive. I know that right now they are watching all those films just looking for one shot of Obama in the congregation with his hand in the air. The only honorable thing he can do at this point is to withdraw his name. Both for the country and his party.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:49 pm |
  15. G.Gray

    I will vote for a black president when blacks stop playing the race card to get their way about everything they want. Senator Obama is an intelligent man. I just couldn't take 8 years of having to see Jesse Jackson's and Al Sharpton's nose in everything they think should be done "now that we have a brother in the White House".

    March 18, 2008 at 2:49 pm |
  16. Brian

    The thing that I think distinguishes Obama from others is that he was born into a less than favorable position (minority, single mother, etc.), yet was still able to work hard to go to college and eventually go to Harvard Law School. This is the American dream. I can connect to that.

    Although, I am college educated, my parents and grandparents were blue collar union factory workers who worked hard so that I could have an opportunity to go to college and be successful. I am living my white blue-collared parents' and grandparents' dream. I think that Obama should emphasize this connection more.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:49 pm |
  17. Thet

    How can Obama calls for unity? the one whom he listened to for 20 years is a racist.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:49 pm |
  18. Christopher

    Why would I vote for hate? I was very troubled by Pastor Wright's words. God D– America. No he made it clear that he was going to stand by Wright. Not with me by his side.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:47 pm |
  19. Ed

    OMG you guys don't stop!!! Can u go to south side of PA and find out how these candidates are going to fix schools, health care, communities. Not who is voting for who. The news media is terrible at reporting news. Make the senators, mayors responsible. Who you do is identity politics. I guess those who complaint about the media bias towards obama were right( I was loving the JFK Halo until the media pounced on obama). You created obama and now u want to destroy him by what he has no responsibilty watsoeva. "Hey has been attending the church for 20yrs." So wat. Does he transtlate everything the pastor says to politics. OMG people ar so ignorant. "oh he should have known after attending 20yrs of service." OMG you are talking about 3-6 15sec clips. Way less than 1% of the millions of seconds he has preached. OMG I cant believe people can be so prejudice.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:46 pm |
  20. bobbie ray

    after finding out that Obamma takes his children to listen to racist and bigoted sermons on sunday at his church, why would i want him to lead my children

    obama has no integrity

    March 18, 2008 at 2:46 pm |
  21. chuck

    Why would I as a white man even think about having a leader that willingly sat 20 years under a "spiritual leader" that espoused hatred for me and kept telling him how bad the blacks have it.

    Maybe 150 years ago, that was true, but their lot has improved by leaps and bounds in recent history and most of the improvement came at the hand of white leaders.

    At age 6, black kids sit under the same teachers as whites, in the same classrooms. They hear the same material, so where do they get off stating how bad they are oppressed and what we are doing to them.

    Obama is not a viable candidate to lead a diverse nation after what his mind has been filled with all these years.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:46 pm |
  22. Tom Meersman

    Comments made by Rev. Wright and now by Obama only serve to further cause racial prejudice and descrimination. Seriously question Obama's judgement and true feelings. Feel now like we are seeing an act. The body language when he talks about these issues is very revealing in what it does and does not say.

    Would have voted for Obama before this all came out but doubt I can not support him now. He is charismatic but sadly lacking in experience and good judgement.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:44 pm |
  23. Angela

    Obama does not align himself with higher income very liberal voters. If you would just take time to listen–his policies are 90 percent similar to Hillary's. The difference is that he has a more realistic agenda. Why would you believe that Hillary understands the working class? She is from a privileged background and bases her promises on her husband's work. Please give someone else a chance. As for Hillary's experience, I am still waiting for her resume.

    And to those who will not vote for Obama because of the race and church issue, please note that it was the Clinton's campaign that started this mess. Geraldine Ferraro simply verbalized Hillary's thoughts to ignite the firestorm and destroy his campaign. But we all believe what we want to, and I am not out to change anyone's mind.

    There was a commentary on the NY Time yesterday, and it started with something like this, "In this article I state that Senator Obama was present in the church on Jul 2 2, His campaign has since provided information that he was not. I apologize....." but he published the editorial anyway!!!!

    And you will not vote for someone because of what his pastor said? Obama was not present and he did not put the words in the pastor's moth. I guess your support was not very strong to begin with. He is not racist–the Clinton campaign is.

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

    Wully Bully – obviously you didn't listen to his speech today? It was about the most non-racist speech a black person has ever given in the history of the nation. What else you could ask for is beyond me.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  25. Gina, Los Angeles

    I guess we all wait until the economy really takes a dive and then jump on Hillary's bandwagon. Better late than never. Go Hillary!

    March 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  26. Pat

    I have a problem with a man who would "throw his grandmother under the bus" to justify his 20 years of sitting in the pews and breaking bread with a man who brings with him an atmosphere of hatred toward white America. One does not do so unless he subscribes at least in part to such an ideology. Because of this, I can not trust the truth in the man Obama versus the politician Obama. His speech does no more than tell me what I want to hear but his 20 years of sitting in the pews with such an atmosphere of hatred on the surface shows me what he does. What you do is more important to me than what you say.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  27. orlando ruiz

    Obama keeps telling voters " change", "change" ! Does it refer to his Pastor whom he idolized for 20 years and now he is going to change his pastor just for convenience purpose. He! He! It does not make sense! But it sounds change !

    March 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  28. Brandon

    As a white male myself, I have never been as confident in a candidate as I am in Barack Obama. Despite what anything anyone says about him, he is infectious. And while many closed-minded individuals think he is a bunch of talk....look at his campaign. The success of his campaign directly correlates with the actions and involvement of his supporters. Change can happen, but its not a flip of a switch. Similar to his campaign, it is initiated by the people.

    And that previous comment on not supporting Obama cause the person thinks he is a racist is borderline insantiy.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  29. Suraj

    The people who are trying to link Obama to his pastor should be worried more about putting someone in the white house with their spouse who have lied to this nation in way never seen before. How can we think about putting such liar back in the white house?

    How can we send someone in the white house who was to busy to read the prewar document before sending our sons and daughters to their death. How stupid can we get as a nation? Now I can see why bush won two term in office…..

    March 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  30. Yemiray

    Wully Bully:
    Your kind of comments are exactly what causes divison in this country..Maybe you should have heard Obama's speech about the issue today. That could have helped you make a more objective decision instead of jumping to quick conclusion like you just did.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  31. Larz

    Obama has had far more contact with the poor and working class than any other candidate. I do think that it is a mistake on his end not to draw focus on his community work. However, I think that so many people are looking for their 'easy out' reason to not support him and Wright opened that door. The question to ask now is "How many supporters of McCain and Clinton have made remarks at least as questionable as Wright?" Clinton can't go a day without someone in her camp saying something stupid, and well McCain just keeps breaking federal laws that he co-wrote and knows better that anyone alive. I have no concerns throwing my support 100% behind Obama. I felt this way when he announced his candidacy and feel even more committed today.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  32. Terry Canada

    living in canada all my life i have seen all types of people from various ethinic backgrounds run for office and I have never heard of race or religion play such a crucial role in the electing of any position. Should it not be about what he can do for the country as a whole rather than who preaches at his church. This is not a major surprise coming from a country that elected George Bush twice. What a joke.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  33. ML

    hard working people do not have it easy in life. Taxes are killing them.
    I do not think Obama really knows what we need as whole nation and as every class, individuals.
    This country is big mixture of races, of people, and this is what is nice about it. No racism should be allowed. His church is anything but this, it is very deeply racist.
    This church involvement is not what we want and need.
    We need someone who is for all without any dividing. So far it was Obama's campaign which was dividing people, which was crying for apologies, which was insulting others, which was not speaking about others, but certain race mainly, too many problems with this campaign already – be it Rezko, his pastor, Canada, etc.
    His experience is not the right one. This is not how the good leader should do, and whom he should have around, and whom he would pick for his "spiritual" lead and support.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  34. JB

    Oh thats nice. Even after such an important speech full of the answers you asked for we still continue the divide. Those of you stuck in the past will be left behind this coming election. Hope will always overcome fear. That is the END.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:42 pm |
  35. Carol

    I am an African American woman who supports Senator Clinton, not based upon race, obviously, but because I perceive her to be the more prepared and qualified candidate. I am glad to hear Senator Obama address race, and not insult the intelligence of the American public that his receiving 80 – 90% of the African American vote has nothing to do with race. Of course it does. If Senator Clinton was receiving 80 – 90% of the female vote, there would be discussion regarding gender. Let's have an honest dialogue as to what the African American population expects in return for their vote.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:42 pm |
  36. Jim

    Wully Bully – I'm with you.

    I am NOT voting for Senator Obama because of his links to his pastor, the right Reverend, Reverend Wright.

    "it may be white men who decide the fate of his campaign"...
    It is clear: the man is now, in one quick swoop, UNELECTABLE.

    Shame on Reverend Wright, Shame on Senator Obama for not tellinng us about this skeleton earlier and for not denouncing him until the media came knocking.....

    I'm heading back to Hillary..............

    March 18, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  37. Jay

    Obama is not just a member of Wright's church, but as he says a good friend of him. Wright gave his church's highest honor to Farrakhan. Need one say more? If Obama had accomplished a lot during his lifetime and were a proven quantity, we could weight this against that and I still think he would come out poorly, but without that background it's hopeless. I will not vote for Obama.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  38. Michael Craig

    It seems like every person debating on the Clinton/Obama choice asks what are they going to do for me. Whatever happened to "Ask not what your country can do for you?"

    Voters should honestly ask themselves which candidate is better to lead this country, not which candidate is likely to get me what I want.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  39. Eric - Chicago


    Check out the library of congress website and compare bills that Obama has introduced/co-sponsored during his tenure in the senate, and compare that with those Clinton has introduced/co-sponsored.

    I think you will be surprised that there is far more substance to Obama's record than of Clinton, and he has had about half the time to do it.

    When you actually look at what each candidate has done, rather than what they claim to have done, you will likely end up supporting Obama.

    That isn't to say Hillary is bad or unqualified, but judging from the agenda she has pushed so far, she just isn't as deeply qualified as Obama. The main difference between the two isn't even so much the intent of what they support... it is the level of success and traction an initiative receives, as well as deep understanding of the ROOT of an issue shown.

    Do the research, and you will find Obama is "more than meets the eye" (to quote tranformers).

    March 18, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  40. New Jersey

    What Obama's pastor said is NOT and SHOULD NOT be used against Obama. I've been to many events were speakers say things that I do not agree with but no one holds it against me because I was standing in the room. That's just plain hypocrisy. For a country built on a foundation of welcoming people of any race or religion to live freely, we sure know how to turn every comment or action into a race and religious issue …especially if it's not our own race and/or religion.
    I, for one, am sick and tired or the mud-slinging and would just like some change. Change for the American people, that is. Those Americans of many colors …

    March 18, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  41. Janet

    Obama truly has worked as, with, and for the working class people of this country. He is the product of a lower to middle class family so he understands more than Clinton or McCain what it's like to struggle to pay bills. He just needs to get that across to people. If he does, there will be no stopping him.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  42. Monica

    White men will decide Obama's fate? How ironic.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  43. le752

    I will not vote for a racist. What is the difference between a white man talking racist and then a black man like Obams's preacher. He is a racist. If a white man said what he said, he would be shot!!!

    March 18, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
  44. jj

    Some of the comments I've read, act like everyone who votes for Clinton is a dumb fool. Anyone with an education votes for Obama. Now who's the dumb one?? Big degrees do not make you smarter when it comes decisions about people, only in your job. I don't expect Obama to disown his preacher or mother or anyone else. BUT, it is his choice to go to a church that preaches racism. I do not want a racist for a President. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck guess what it's a duck. If you are raised with racism, then there is a bigger chance you will be one. Look at his wife. What she said was definately what came from what the church preaches. All I hear is to make it better for the blacks because they've been so burdened. Not one of them was ever a slave, sorry , get over it and move on like the rest of the blacks have. They do for themselves, and no pity party for them. They are ashamed of you. They see you making race an issue more than anyone. We need a president that is for ALL the people, the red man, mexican, cubans, everyone, not just the black.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
  45. easterbaby

    God did not think you had to be EXPERIENCED to become a parent. If God doesn't think EXPERIENCE is a requirement, who are we to feel it should be? EXPERIENCED parents don't always mean that they are GOOD parents.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:39 pm |
  46. gerry

    i am white and will never vote for a racist
    he is a very intelligent racist thats right
    a racist if we dont wake up soon and vote HILLARY
    we are done for,, the promlem here is this guy
    can do no wrong if he was white and his priest said what he said
    his run would be over

    March 18, 2008 at 2:37 pm |
  47. Martin

    Also, experience is not the most important thing when it comes to this election. Not to mention that Obama has been a senator for years, and before that he was a politician in Chicago. He has plenty of experience, but the real question you should be asking yourself is:

    Who is more determined to actually help the American public?

    It's not experience that gets laws passed. It's good writing and convincing that gets laws passed, and I feel that Barack is the best candidate to do that. Representatives are not going to pass a law just because the president is experienced; they are going to pass a law because it sounds good to them. If reps feel that it will benefit the American people, they will pass it.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:36 pm |
  48. Washington, DC

    It's not about race, it's not about gender. The message he brings is hope. A message that only the hopeless or those who have ever been without hope can hear. I hear what he's saying loud and clear. It's all about new beginnings. I can testify because I know where all my help comes from, and my LORD say's my sheep know my voice.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:36 pm |
  49. E. C., Houston, Texas

    When anyone asks a Voter if he can name anything that Obama has done for the country.......the answer is repeatedly, "No." When asked about the influence of Obama's Pastor, voters all agree that the Pastor has influenced Obama over 20 years. Everyone is really angry that they voted for a man who has these Racist Ties. Is Obama really qualified for President.......an Emphatic... NO!

    March 18, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
  50. Willowrun

    As an African American, I view the church that Barack Obama attends not as a racist church, but a church for the priviledged elite. Which I loathe more than racism. Many people are saying that the pastor was angry as he gave that speech. I don't think he was angry per se, I think he was trying to rally up this elite predominately African American audience.

    Now I was raised in the city of Houston. The church I attended was in an poverty stricken neighborhood. Race was not mention in the pulpit. The United States wasn't discuss neither. The sermons were uplifting, but most importantly, it was about making it through the week. These mega churches to me are for those who seek social and finacial prospertity. And nothing is wrong with that, but I believe in those hole in the wall churches across America that preaches: How are we going to get through the week?

    I like Barack Obama because he doesn't dumb it down for the audience, and he challenges us not to accept applesauce over steak, which President Bush is the master of. I don't want a candidate that says buzz words. Senator Obama is full of them, but he also has substance, complexity and depth. I seek and crave that from every aspect of life: Music, relationships, religion, and politics Senator John McCain, Hilary Clinton, and Barack Obama are qualified to be president. However, the question is which candidate is best for the 20th century?

    This presidential race is very complex, and that is the way it should be in my opinion. I am tired of seeing the United States being divided over childish playground tactics. Barack Obama challenged us to be smarter than the Orwellian tactics of old politics today.

    Vote however you like, but please do not fall for the typical spin that the media and political pundits give us. Challenge yourself this year.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
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