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Commentary: Democrats need more than working-class whites

  • Story Highlights
  • Roland S. Martin: Sen. Hillary Clinton argues she appeals to working-class whites
  • But Democrats need more than working-class whites to win, commentator says
  • Clinton wrongly assumes she also will get all traditional Democrats, Martin says
  • Candidate who's able to build a broad coalition should be nominee, Martin says
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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(CNN) -- Excuse me if a look of bewilderment crosses my face when a surrogate of Sen. Hillary Clinton's starts off on the "we need hard-working white workers to win in November" mantra.


Roland S. Martin contends the Democratic nominee will need a broad-based coalition to win in November.

The candidate herself has now made that notion the primary -- and latest argument -- to superdelegates to convince them she's the best person to beat Sen. John McCain in November.

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she told USA Today.

The newspaper quoted her as saying that an Associated Press article showed how Sen. Barack Obama's support among "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

Now, I know I'm not one of those voters she's talking about, but the reality is that hard-working white Americans alone will not put Clinton or Obama in the White House.

Neither will African-Americans alone or young voters, senior citizens, the college-educated, the "no-working" Americans, gays and lesbians, nonreligious voters, veterans, Hispanics, women, etc.

In fact, Democrats alone won't do it. You also must take a good portion of independents.

No Democrat can win the White House unless he or she is able to pull from all the various constituencies in the country, and it's downright silly for the Clinton campaign to assert that idea that hard-working white votes are the only ones that matter.

Sure, the Clinton camp will contend that's not what it's saying. But it sure sounds that way (and no, I don't agree with what's being said on blogs -- that this is playing the "race card").

Is Clinton suggesting that whites who voted for Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire (where she beat him by around 8,000 votes), Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington state, Minnesota and so many other states were phantom voters? Were they not hard-working white voters? Were they only the "eggheads and African-Americans" whom Paul Begala referred to on CNN on election night?

Look, I get spin. And I get that Clinton must figure out some kind of argument that makes sense for the superdelegates to go her way and ignore Obama's lead among pledged delegates, the popular vote and states won. But when a Democratic candidate continues to ram home this notion that hard-working white Americans somehow are the bedrock foundation of the Democratic Party, it's just not true.

Clinton wants to make the argument that her white working-class support in Ohio and Pennsylvania -- states the Democrats need to win in November -- shows she's the best choice.

But one major failure in Clinton's argument is the assumption that all the traditional Democratic constituencies will offer her broad support if she's the nominee. And considering her high negatives, she can't afford any erosion.

Obama could make the case that she has failed miserably in the primaries in garnering young and African-American voters, and without them, she loses.

Not only that, the Democratic Party has a chance to expand the map beyond the battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Democrats have a solid shot at winning Iowa, New Mexico, Missouri, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and New Hampshire. Of those states, Obama won four of the seven, and he had narrow losses in New Mexico and New Hampshire.

Small states? Sure. Winnable? Absolutely. Their electoral votes can be as important as the big states.

If Democrats are serious about winning, they are going to have to put on ice this notion that white working-class voters or any other constituencies are the be-all and end-all in November.

Winning the White House is about building a true broad coalition. You should judge which candidate has been able to do so in the primaries. If it's Obama, he's the nominee. If it's Clinton, then she is.

Such a coalition should be on the mind of every superdelegate -- not the debate over which ethnic group reigns supreme at the ballot box.

Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning journalist and CNN contributor. Martin is studying to receive his master's degree in Christian communications at Louisiana Baptist University. You can read more of his columns at

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

All About Hillary ClintonBarack ObamaDemocratic Party

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