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. boosk

    Hope is what we need in this country at this very moment. I wouldn't say Obama is the perfect choice but that is what we get. Clintons have their chance and they are too power hunger to care for the average American. Sure they will manipulate the average American in order to go to the office but once they get there, they have the 'special interest' and the big greedy corporation to please first. Can the average American wait another 4 or 8 years for our turn? Playing the racial card shows how low they are prepared to go to be in power. Why do we need a person who is divisive to be our future president?

    As with McCain, do we need another Bush? These people get filthy rich at the expense of the general American public! We have failed to safe guard our country from the 911 and instead of take stock of our negligence and move on but Bush chose to divert the attention and went to wars instead. Do driving the Talibans to the mountain and hanging Saddam make America safer? Absolutely not. We sacrificed thousands of our men and women in uniform for more enemies, more hatres and $110/barrel oil. Not to mention what the war cost of $trillions can do for our ecnomy.

    I admit Obama did make some mistakes. Who didn't in their life. What is important is how we live up to our mistakes. He deserves a chance and he represents our hope. Hope is all we have now. Lets unite and work together for a better future. Unite together and we can do it!

    Boosk, Utah

    March 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  2. Kathie

    Sing God Bless America for the people you want to vote for you Obama.. They are waiting and listening . Get Rev. Wright to
    sing along with you.. Maybe, then you might sound a little bit
    sincere. Until then .. you just have great speech writers .

    March 18, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  3. Brad

    it is simply very foolish to support BHO. If he was not half black he would never have gotten this far. What about substance and specifics regarding real issues? He has none.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  4. Joel Bosh

    First of all Obama is a product of a White Woman and a Black Man. He is black but he is also white. Obama is a mix of 2 races. As a Latino I’m a mix of 3 races. For people to say or think that obama is a racist is ridiculous. Obama was raised by a white family. This man knows more than anybody what it will take to bring this country together. He best understands the views of white and black people. Obama is a bridge between the black and white. This man clearly wants the best for our country as a hole. He truly wants us to go beyond race and unite as Americans. Americans are all decedents of immigrants. The only true americans are the native Americans. The native Americans where here before anyone. We have become a melting pot. If we don’t get beyond all this none sense this country will have a hard time moving forward. This is the perfect opportunity for America to come together behind this man.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  5. NC4Obama

    I think everyone has the right to choose who they want to vote for, for whatever reason.

    The people that are not going to vote for Obama has the right to do that just as the people who are voting for him has the right to. Until people start being honest with themself, things will never "change".

    March 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm |
  6. John Burrard

    Barack Obama is running for president. His pastor, or for that matter the pastor of any of the other condidates, is NOT. Why is this country so obscessed with what the religious community is saying when we clearly have a separation of Church and State?
    If you want a theocracy, move to Iran. If a country where religious values are the most important item on the agenda, consider a move to Saudi Arabia. This country is SECULAR.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm |
  7. Independent

    What is important is that we stay united as a nation. Let's respect each other's opinions, let's understand not everybody has the same perspective or situation. Stand by your values, but don't attack others.
    We are one nation, under God.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm |
  8. Brenda, Portland, OR

    Regarding Bob Merk's comment: “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.”

    Is this really what people are asking for from politicians...guarantees? Unfortunately, those are simply false promises, and I'm sure Hillary Clinton bestows them willingly. The question is, do you seriously believe her. Seriously?

    March 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm |
  9. Robert

    Can you imagine if Hillary Clinton’s pastor would have said those remarks about black people? Not to mention this pastor married Obama and his wife. He also baptized his two children. It wouldn’t surprise me if Obama’s support among blacks even grows higher from his 88% in most states because of this.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:51 pm |
  10. hoping

    Extremely well said Shannon in Minnesota and so many others. Diddo! It's great to see open dialogue. This is a very deep all encompassing issue. I am glad to read the thoughts of so many critical thinkers that listen with an open mind and open heart.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  11. Confused

    Firstly, I'm not certain about what part of Obama‘s pastures speech was racist. Perhaps I didn’t hear the speech in its entirety. Secondly, it is Obama that is running for office – not his pasture and it is Obama’s words that should be at the forefront and not the other way around.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  12. Les

    Can we please get religion out of politics!
    Clinton-Gen. Wesley Clark–now there's a ticket without religious undertones.
    "It's about the economy (& war) stupid!"

    March 18, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  13. Rich

    I'm a white male, 61 years of age. Obama has indeed given me hope for the future of America. I say, based on all that I have seen in my lifetime, let's give this man the opportunity to prove what he can do. Our president, more than anything else, needs to inspire us as Americans; and really, to inspire all the world. Obama is truly our best hope.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  14. nobama

    I voted for Obama in the primary. After watching his pastor of 20 years rant and rave about the damning of America and such, he has lost my vote. I watched his speech, and it was well spoken and well thought out. He made some great points, but what I heard was that the white man is still to blame. Now I am one of those working class he spoke about, nothing has been handed to me and I have earned my way. I won't be blamed for the sins of past generations, my family was not here. What about all the white folk that stood up for the rights of African Americans? What about me teaching my children to treat others equally? If I went to church every sunday and heard our pastor say the same things that pastor Wright said, my family and I would leave. Garbage in, Garbage out. Right?

    March 18, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  15. Johnny Too Good

    poor lil confused white men, still heading in the wrong direction, JUST BECAUSE CLINTON TALKS ABOUT THOSE THINGS DOESNT MEAN SHE WILL DO THEM, every four years someone gets up and says what they will do and fills the voters' ears with everything they wanna hear.......
    these same white men elected Bush twice and now look at the country, we got soldiers fighting for nothing and our economy is failing, if these white men make the wrong decision again America may crumble

    March 18, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  16. John

    After learning of the type of church the Obama's have attended the last 20 years, we now know why his wife made the comments last month that for the first time in her life she had been proud of America. She was listening even if Obama was not.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  17. L. C. Baird

    I beleive as many others on this blog that Obama is toast!! I bleive that McCain will eat him alive if nominated. Should he somehow win, i will move permanently to Mexico. I am a while male senior.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:46 pm |
  18. Kevin in Indiana

    Many people on this page have commented on why union workers are centralizing around Hillary. There is a plain and simple reason for this. Hillary knows that in order for her to win she must make claims and give people what they want. Union workers for some reason believe that Hillary will give them everything they need so that they can move out of working class America and into some luxury style of living where everything is perfect and they don't have to pay for anything. Certainly their entire basis for voting for her is because there will be something that directly benefits them. I would call it a selfish vote. On the other hand, Obama repeatedly provides programs and services that would help future working Americans. I think that this is more important to America then guaranteed pensions. There are very few laws that Bush was able to pass in his time as President that will really effect society. The main thing he has done is try to pave a way for future policies of America. This is where Obama and Clinton diverge. Clinton is obviously looking for the selfish, immediate solution vote, while Obama looks at the Presidency from a much broader perspective. Clinton would certainly continue on the same lower class/upper class policy that Bush has set if she is elected. Obama been through everything that hard working Americans believe, and actually knows how to solve them. Not by immediate solutions but an immediate change in policy and an immediate change in political mindset. This change will happen, but not if Hillary is elected. No change will happen and I guarantee the only thing that will be done during her time as President is universal health care, a decrease in the quality of health care for low income Americans, and troop removal from Iraq. The difference between low class Americans and upper class Americans will certainly enlarge if she was elected. It is time to end this nonsense and to start thinking about change. It is time for Americans to stop expecting everything for free from the government and to start looking at the world in which the next generation of Americans will be raised. As a white male, Barack Obama most certainly has my vote.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:46 pm |
  19. glen

    People please, give up his church because his pastor said something inflammatory, oh and I guess every catholic politician should leave there church because of all the scandals associated with there religon. just because someone stands in the pulpit does not mean they think for you. Many ministers of all races say things that one race or another will view as racist do we disown them no.
    Experience wise well where is all this experience Hillary is talking about? practicing law, well Obama has that experience as well, working with communities they both have the experience except Obama has not had to defend any Whitewater stuff. As far as the Rezko it was all disclosed in the past, typical campaign rhetoric bringing up nothing.
    One last thing CHURCH AND STATE are separate, the church all religons have know business running the politics of this country.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:46 pm |
  20. Charles W. Murrell

    I listened to Rep. Obama and he made it clear he did not condone his preacher. That preacher let his mouth overrule his good sense , Marines tend to do that . And anyone that changes his church because he doesn't agree with his pastor is a small person . This from an athiest.
    I do not know how I will vote yet; But it wont be because of race.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:46 pm |
  21. EJ

    If I wanted a motivational speaker as a president then I would vote for Obama. Funny thing is, I want a president who will follow up their speeches with action. Hillary has been in the White House before, she'll knows what to expect from day one. She and Bill are respected and well received internationally. We need a candidate who can restore our international relations. We need strong leadership that can turn our deficit into a surplus again (it didn't take long for W to blow through the surplus Bill left behind). The United States is suffering and we need strong leadership.

    I just don't think Obama is up for the task. Our country isn't in the position to take a chance on a rookie, especially one whose trustworthiness seems to be a little questionable lately. We've seen Hillary face very public scrutiny and she persevered with grace and didn't let that keep her from doing her job. That's the kind of president we need...committed and capable even when the "you know what" is hitting the fan.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:45 pm |
  22. EV

    Sorry Obama, you can not convience me that you sat in a Church for 20+ years hearing that type of preaching and you do not buy into that ideology. If my church preached racism and hate, I would quickly find a new house of worship, not keep coming.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:45 pm |
  23. Tim Whittaker

    If anyone here believes that Obama attended this church for 20 years and did not know what type of hate was being preached, then they are wearing some very powerful rose colored glass that were probably handed out by Obama himself.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:45 pm |
  24. Oklahoma

    How is it that everyone seems to talk about him having a white mother and not remember that she is the one that married the black muslim man to start with so at some point in her life she must of had the same beliefs as he did, so my point being what would her being white have to do with changing the way he was taught and the way his father and mother both brought him up, if her feelings were different than that of his fathers she would have put him in a different school are something but no when she divorced his real father she then married another muslim. Get the Picture

    March 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  25. Judy

    If you are not a woman, you will never understand what prejudice women have to deal with.
    If you are not "fat", you will never understand the prejudice a fat person has to deal with.
    If you are not of average height, you will never understand what those have to deal with.
    What about the Italians and those of other heritages (Asian) have had to deal with when their American forefathers were locked up and herded like cattle during the World Wars?
    Every one of every ethnic background has a history of some sort of prejudice.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  26. Tammara Beach

    Let me pose a question...When in a job interview and a potential employer wants to know how would you handle problems, doesn’t the potential employer ask..."How would you handle ______situation if it arises? In my experience, they do.

    What Barack Obama did today is the most important factor in my decision to vote for him. If you look outside of the race issue and you look and the steps that he took to address this issue, it is the EXACT characteristic that this country needs in terms of a President or any elected official. They fact that he CONFRONTED the issues...gave is HONEST views then addressed the fears that you have( I say you because this issue with the Rev. Wright was never an issues to me...I saw it as what is was...a spin to make Obama seem discredited) and give us solutions to solve it. Barack cannot make you feel how you are going to feel, but he did today help you understand what would make a pastor say these things and he showed that he is a true man of integrity by being a standup person about it.

    Unfortunately in America, the race issues will never be quelled. As long as we as a people are not truly understanding of others cultures and issues, it will always be in the forefront of anything that we aspire for. But in my opinion, what has happened in the past few days has made us really understand why we are voting for whom we are voting for and if it is not a relevant and well thought out reason, then you will flip to the other side when the heat is hot.

    So if you are now leaving the Barack camp because of the views of his pastor that only looks out for your spiritual well being and you are leaving because you think that race will overpower the white house, I ask you to remember 2 years ago and what you saw and heard in Sept 2005 and the Katrina coverage. Race has been in the white house before that and it will be after that. So tell me that you are leaving his campaign because he is not the right candidate, but don’t tell me it is because his pastor, when we know that we have heard some things in our churches, temples, synagogues that we did not agree with, but we saw the bigger picture and still stayed.

    Please believe that this is not something as far as the Rev Wright tapes that came out of the thin air, they came from careful investigations and the hunt for dirt. The Resko thing is not going to amount to a hill of beans so they had to find something else and race was it. Shatter the "Safe Black Man" facade and we will win. God is wish that the job interview did not come to dirt, but it did.

    In conclusion, look at the tone and the stature of this man while he was speaking...Cool, Calm, Unraveled...now at 3am, I want THAT person to answer the phone.

    Tammara Beach
    Single Mother of 2
    Supporter of a great candidate

    March 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  27. pat

    He’s been a memeber of this Pastror's churck community for 20 years and must have been blinders. Did he not hear the congregation as they cheered this Racist Pastor on from the pulpit. I can't believe Obama. Yes he is an eloquent speaker, but that is about all he has going for him.

    CHANGE, nice slogan, but what changes. Haven't heard anything concrete from his lips. The man has no experience, and does not belong in the race. Speaking of Race, what is that we had the Black Music Awards and other award shows only geared toward Blacks.
    Wonder if we had a White only music award show, how the outcry from the black community would be.

    I am a Liberal Democrat, but am tired of the imbalance. The crack in the white/black division is starting to appear already, and if Obama gets the dems Nod, watch the white backlash that will begin to take place in this country.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  28. Csokas

    Listening to some of the comments from "white male voters" in both PA and OH, I'm shocked by the lack of issue knowledge. This is generally an informed section of the electorate, but to hear them speak about not hearing Obama say anything that says he will protect unions and jobs is appalling. I don't know if they just made up their minds, haven't been listening, or refuse to listen. Like Clinton, I've heard a lot about plans to help working class people. I should know. I'm one of them. Frankly, though, since 9/11, I haven't made many inroads into better pay and I believe Clinton's been on duty for a lot of that.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  29. Jeff

    I was very much pulling for Senator Obama, but after the words of Pastor Wright, and connecting the Dots to Mrs. Obama's comment of being the first time she was proud of America has given me pause.
    Todays speech leaves more questions than answers and until Senator Obama gets more specific on Issues I'm afraid that it is just more feel good talk. If I made the same comments that Pastor Wright made I would certainly be painted as a racist and a bigot. Racism works both ways!!!

    March 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  30. Rose

    People have been trying to paint Barack as a Muslim extremist since day one of his campaign. People need to get their heads out of their butts. If you want to know Obama's stance on issues, read his web page, you took the time to read this article, so you can take the time to read his page.

    Clinton has lost, Florida is out, and Barack would almost surely win Michigan anyway. She has no chance. If you want to be a Democrat, stop ruining the party by supporting false accusations. However, I can't blame you because you are generally uneducated folks, which means nothing more than you believe everything the media feeds you, and that you aren't smart enough to find information that isn't provided to you via the media. Find some information for yourselves.

    I do find it quite funny that a bunch of middle class people support one of the most elite Americans that makes more money in a year than any of us can expect to make in a lifetime. She has not seen a hard day in her life, and if you call her husband cheating on her hard, than you haven't seen a hard time either.

    That's it for my rant. The best thing we can all do as a party is come together, vote for who you want to vote for, but stop trying to ruin the other candidate, especially when smearing Obama does us no good when Hillary can't win the nomination anyway.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  31. A.Small

    I fear what will happen to our country if we Elect Obama. He is obviously no different than any other politician in his ability to spin . Our country was fooled in the last 2 elections. Wake up people, Obama is not the man to reunite our country. GO HILLARY

    March 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  32. Smart Texas

    We all knew Obama's fate was inthe hands of white men anyway. What has changed but these white men don't wear hoods.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  33. easter baby

    Take note of these words from an article I read: "Thinking critically about government policy is the strongest shield against government excess.

    We will continue to voice our disagreement when we feel the government has stepped out of bounds and will do so with the conviction that one of the highest forms of patriotism is devotion to the Constitution and the freedoms guaranteed within, including the right to speak out in disagreement with the powers that be.


    March 18, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  34. JMH, Chicago

    Obama has lost his appeal.

    And he lives in my city, I am college-educated and make well over what is defined as the group of "working-class white males".

    March 18, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  35. Diane in Idaho

    Give me a break. If white pastors made racist remarks they would be tolerated just like they have been for 200+ years in this country. I have heard racist and sexist remarks from pupits before (white churches). No one said a word because no one in the congregation was running for president. I would not want to have to defend everything my pastor has said in the last 20 years and I doubt anyone would.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  36. Rob

    To anyone that claims they won't vote for Obama because of the statements made by his pastor:

    1. Obama was not the one who said the remarks

    2. I'd question whether you'd vote him anyway – is this just an excuse?

    3. If any of us were to be held accountable for everything that our friends, family, co-workers, or associates have ever said, we would all perish.

    4. Google the hateful, intolerant and non-Christ-like comments made by Rod Parsley and John Hagee (both McCain endorsors and in the words of McCain his "Spiritual Guide").

    March 18, 2008 at 3:41 pm |
  37. Dionnea

    I'm trying to understand how Hillary can relate to "Blue collar workers" when she lives in newyork (affluent community) and the clinton's are millionaires.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  38. A l

    You are judged by the people with whom you choose to associate.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:23 pm |
  39. nebraska

    Somehow Sen. Obama keeps missing the point. He needs to spell out clearly what he will do as president, not tell us what we will have to do. Talk is cheap, but it takes prosperity and solvency to buy groceries, that's not going to come out of an Obama adminstration.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  40. Jo-Ann

    Hey Wully Bully I'm with you – Obama denounced his remarks today but flat out refuses to disown this guy and still wants to be a memeber of that church – he just threw his candidacy away. By By Bama – Hello Hill.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  41. Wil

    Oh m'God, don't lay this one on the white male!

    March 18, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  42. ruth

    Have we forgotten Obama is half white and half black . Are we really suggesting he is a racist against his mother and himself ?

    March 18, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  43. LM

    It's amazing that everyone says that race is not a factor, yet when you see the polls, it obviously is.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:03 pm |
  44. CLE

    Critical thinking / God fearing folks attend church to worship God not to worship the pastor. Truth be told, everyone has issue with their pastor over some topic. Critical thinking followers don't have to agree with him/her on every issue. I'm not understanding why everyone is holding Obama responsible for someone else's words.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:02 pm |
  45. Matthew

    This is not so much about race as it is about class. Working class voters perceive Hillary to be closer to the working classes than Obama. I'm sure some union/blue collar voters will based their vote on race, but those are a fringe few. The rest are much more concerned about their financial future. Unionized workforce has now fallen to 8% of the national labor market. The day of the Union has passed, and workers need to focus on education rather than re-stabilizing industries that are past their prime.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  46. Independent

    I agree with many that Obama's speech today is historical and he is openning a new chapter of American history. I won't be surprised that future generations will go back to this speech again again and again. What courage and audacity!

    March 18, 2008 at 3:00 pm |
  47. Christian

    So let me get this straight. Obama has know this Pastor for over 20 years, but he is just now becoming aware of his racist & anti-American tendencies. I was born at night, but not last night. Sorry Barack, I'm not going to let you pull the wool over my eyes.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:00 pm |
  48. Gerry

    Personally, I think it's time for the media to be part of the solution instead of the vessel for the problem.

    By that I mean it's time the press STOP the racial dissecting of white men, black, religion, latino, women, etc. voters and just focus on the issues.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:58 pm |
  49. Jay

    Wully Bully – Did you see or read Obama's speech today? The man is not a racist. His parents even come from different racial backgrounds.

    I think the analysts suggestion that "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." is a great tip.

    As a white male, I'm a big fan of Obama and his message, but I agree he could do much more to reach out to those in unions.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:58 pm |
  50. Allen Ft. Bend County

    Obama is against me.


    Tax-paying, middle class, never divorced, gun owning, Navy Dad, pro-life, 50 years plus, V-8 Chevy truck driving, balding white guy.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:58 pm |
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