After closely examining the demographics of the state and the election calendar I find myself asking: What’s wrong with Wisconsin?
Since Super Tuesday, February has turned out to be a bad month for Hillary Clinton. This string of defeats has arguably less to do with a fundamental flaw in her candidacy/campaign and more to do with an incredibly fortunate alignment of the stars in Barack Obama's favor. The Clinton Campaign readily admits that caucuses (Washington, Nebraska, and Maine, for instance) are advantageous to Barack Obama's campaign style. And the campaign in no small part plays into identity politics; it would be nearly impossible for Hillary Clinton to win in Louisiana, Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, D.C. African Americans make up more than 30% of the democratic electorate in these states and vote overwhelming for Obama. Since Hawaii is both a caucus and a former home to Obama, no one is surprised that the Clinton campaign has decided to write off this small state.
Clinton's problem with caucuses and African-American voters may explain why she did not campaign vigorously or perform well in the last eight contests. The question is now: Why is her campaign not aggressively fighting for Wisconsin?
Wisconsin's demographics indicate that it could be very competitive. The Clinton Campaign insists that they can win the "big states" when the contests are primaries. Wisconsin is a primary and the 20th largest state in the country with 5.6 million people. Exit polls also show that she does best with the less affluent, the elderly, white women, and Hispanics. Wisconsin is not a wealthy state. It has the 13th highest level of unemployment and the state's medium income is only barely above the nation's average (WI $48,903, nation average $48,023). Wisconsin is also a relatively old state with greater percentage of 65+ individuals than the national average (13.0% vs. 12.4%). With a 90% white population, the African-American and Hispanic votes are negligible.
Eight straight wins have given Barack Obama incredible momentum. It would be to Clinton's advantage to put a stop to his momentum as soon as possible. Trying to stop Obama's momentum on February 19th in Wisconsin seems wiser than waiting another two weeks until March 4th.
While I'm not privy to the campaigns internal polling, the demographics of Wisconsin point to it being a good state for Hillary Clinton. A failure there could be a sign that Clinton's coalition is unraveling. A poor performance in the state can't be spun like the last eight loses. I think both the Clinton campaign and the media should ask: What’s wrong with Wisconsin?