Hillary Clinton losing appeal among white male voters

A Hillary Clinton supporter at a Michigan rally earlier this month. While Mrs Clinton swept the five major primaries on Tuesday, she lost the white male vote in all of them.
A Hillary Clinton supporter at a Michigan rally earlier this month. While Mrs Clinton swept the five major primaries on Tuesday, she lost the white male vote in all of them. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK • White men narrowly backed Mrs Hillary Clinton in her 2008 race for the presidency but they are resisting her candidacy this time around in major battleground states, rattling some Democrats about her general-election strategy.

While Mrs Clinton swept the five major primaries on Tuesday, she lost white men in all of them, and by double-digit margins in Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio, exit polls showed - a sharp turnabout from 2008, when she won double-digit victories among white male voters in all three states. She also performed poorly on Tuesday with independents, who have never been among her core supporters.

But white men backed her - when she was up against a black opponent. She explicitly appealed to them in 2008, extolling the Second Amendment, mocking Mr Barack Obama's comment that working- class voters "cling to guns or religion" and needling him over his difficulties with "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans".

 

She could not sound more different today, aggressively campaigning to toughen gun-control laws and especially courting black and Hispanic voters. Her standing among white men does not threaten her clinching the Democratic nomination this year, or preclude her from winning in November, unless it craters.

Mr Obama lost the white vote to Mrs Clinton, after all, but still won the presidency. But what is striking is the change in attitudes towards Mrs Clinton among those voters, and her struggle to win them over.

In dozens of interviews across the country, many white male Democrats expressed an array of misgivings, with some former supporters turning away from her now. Many said they did not trust her to overhaul the economy because of her wealth and her Wall Street ties. Some said her use of private e-mail as secretary of state showed she had something to hide. A few said they did not think a woman should be commander in chief. But most said they simply did not think she cared about people like them.

"She's talking to minorities now, not really to white people, and that's a mistake," said Mr Dennis Bertko, 66, a construction project manager in Youngstown, Ohio.

Mr Bertko said he rarely crossed party lines, but voted for Mr Donald Trump, who is making a strong pitch to disaffected white men by assailing free-trade deals that Mrs Clinton once supported. "I know a lot of guys who are open to Trump," he said.

The fading of white men as a Democratic bloc is hardly new: The last nominee to carry them was Mr Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and many blue-collar "Reagan Democrats" now vote Republican. But Democrats have won over about 35 per cent to 40 per cent of white men in nearly every presidential election since 1988. And some Democratic leaders say the party needs white male voters to win the presidency, raise money and, like it or not, maintain credibility as a broad-based national coalition.

NEW YORK TIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'Clinton losing appeal among white male voters'. Print Edition | Subscribe