As Hillary Clinton Sweeps States, One Group Resists: White Men

Patrick Healy, New York Times, March 17, 2016

White men narrowly backed Hillary Clinton in her 2008 race for president, 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 were, at least when Mrs. Clinton was running against a black opponent: She explicitly appealed to them in 2008, extolling the Second Amendment, mocking Barack Obama’s comment that working-class voters “cling to guns or religion” and even needling him at one point 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 about Mrs. Clinton among those voters, and her struggle to win them over again. In dozens of interviews in diners, offices and neighborhoods 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 ties to Wall Street. Some said her use of private email as secretary of state indicated 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 Mrs. Clinton cared about people like them.

“She’s talking to minorities now, not really to white people, and that’s a mistake,” said Dennis Bertko, 66, a construction project manager in Youngstown, Ohio, as he sipped a draft beer at the Golden Dawn Restaurant in a downtrodden part of town. “She could have a broader message. We would have listened.”

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

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