I am back from a week away and am ready to start tackling the first of what I hope will be several installments looking at possible vice presidential choices for both Obama and McCain. In this installment, I will look at what Jim Webb might bring to the Democratic ticket.
Webb's name has been a popular one with many pundits because he seems to bring a lot of strength among groups where Obama may be weaker. Generally, Webb is viewed as someone who can help with working class white voters, especially those in rural areas. On the other hand, there is some concern about Webb's image among women voters.
To get a better sense of how Webb stands among these various demographic groups, we can look at his performance in the 2006 Senate race (when he upset George Allen) compared to the performance of other Democratic Senate candidates nationwide in that same year. This comparison is shown in this figure:
First, Webb did under-perform among women when compared to other Democratic Senate candidates in 2006. He won just 46% of the vote among this group compared to other Democrats who won 51% of white women in 2006. He also did not make this disadvantage up with a stronger performance among white men, as he won the same share of the vote from white men as other Democratic Senate candidates did in 2006. Webb's problems among white women could be decisive in leading Obama toward another choice, because Obama cannot afford to alienate women who are already disappointed with the way the Democratic primary turned out.
Webb also does not necessarily bring the advantages among "working class whites" that pundits have been quick to attribute to him. In fact, he won just 47% of the vote among whites making less than $50,000 per year compared to 52% for other Democratic Senate candidates. He also won just 32% among whites without a college education, far below the 47% baseline established by other Democratic candidates.
So, what up-side does Webb bring? He did out-perform other Democrats among voters 60 and older, a group that Obama did not fare as well with during the Democratic primaries. He also did 8% better among frequent church-goers and 6% better among rural voters than other Democrats did in 2006. These are groups that the Obama campaign would certainly want to reach out to, if only to minimize the size of McCain's advantage among those demographics.
Finally, there are two things we can't really get a handle on with these exit polls. First, Webb does bring some national security experience that could be important for the Democratic tickets. Second, Webb hails from Virginia, a state that Obama intends to doggedly contest in 2008. The question is, are these advantages important enough to out-weigh concerns about Webb's image among women? My guess is no. The Obama campaign simply cannot afford to alienate white women, no matter what other advantages they think they pick up by doing so.
Which potential VP candidate would you like me to analyze next? Vote on the right side bar to make your pick!