Obama got crushed in the Democratic primary in Kentucky yesterday. He lost to Hillary Clinton worse than I thought he would.
Worse still was the reason he lost. Obama held his core -- nearly all the academics I know voted for him, and the college Democrats were overwhelmingly for him. Clinton kept her core of old women and some workers. The big margin seemed to come from people who admitted to pollsters, in face-to-face conversations, that race was a factor in their voting. Chris Matthews reported that a fifth of those voting yesterday -- taking both primaries together -- said this. And he reasonably noted that if a fifth of voters admitted this in public, another X percent vote racially in the privacy of the voting booth.
Still, John Kennedy faced sizable percentages in 1960 who openly said religion was a factor in their voting - yet he still won.
In the larger race for the nomination, though, Obama all but won. Clinton will carry on through the last primary. I believe that the party elders have already arranged for the superdelegates to settle the issue immediately after that. Obama was very gracious in his Iowa speech last night to both Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain. This bodes well for the fall.
I think the past election that will most resemble this one is 1960. That was a squeaker, which could have gone either way. Senator McCain is no Nixon, but his position as a last-chancer with enemies in his own party is somewhat similar. The parallels between Obama and Kennedy are so striking that I hear about them all the time from people old enough to remember the 1960 election - my birth year.
Last night after Obama spoke they played Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising," as they have as the first song in several rallies recently. A little later, while the talking heads will still chewing over the night's events with the Obama rally in the background, we could hear Brooks and Dunn's "Only in America." Springsteen broke his political silence last time to campaign actively for John Kerry. Brooks and Dunn have been the most prominent musicians performing at recent Republican conventions. I expect the musicians will not change parties this time. But their music can be a symbol of unity. Only in America.