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September 20, 2017

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American voters praying for unity

With nearly six weeks to go before the Pennsylvania primaries, American voters of all political persuasions have a virtual eternity to pray for the outcome they seek. Republican entreaties will be straightforward. They have their candidate, and although the liberal wing must fervently hope that the conservative base will support John McCain, the party leadership will coalesce behind the only candidate they've got. Now all Republicans can focus on hallelujahs for Democrats who would tear each other apart and give McCain enough ammunition to win the general election.

Pity the Democrats. With two presumably attractive, history-making candidates to choose from, many are having difficulty choosing between them. They often tell pollsters that they didn't make up their minds on how to vote until the last minute.

We can't expect to know how many voters in any state primary were swayed by the last clever TV ad they saw before going to the polls, or the last small gaffe blown into big news by the media. More likely, the real power swaying voters lies camouflaged in more subtle underlying messages about who gets to make history first; what color, what sex.

This is not always so subtle — Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1984, claimed recently that "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." Other political activists claim that women finally woke up in last week's primaries. In Texas, 57 percent of the voters were women, and in Ohio even more. They voted heavily for Clinton, as if to say, in the words of a well-known Texas politician, "Not so fast there, sonny."

Women's support of Clinton is not as strong as black support for Obama, but it is very important because more women than men vote by a significant majority. This helps explain Obama's losses in Ohio and Texas, and his big win in Mississippi. In that latest primary contest, the majority black population was a key factor in his victory this week, with a larger percentage of the vote than Clinton has been able to achieve in any state except Arkansas. However, a large majority of Mississippi's white voters cast their ballots for Clinton, as was the case in both Texas and Ohio. As this nomination battle grinds on, race and sex are rearing ugly heads as major factors in voters' choices.

In the week before the Texas and Ohio primaries, the Clinton campaign decided to throw the kitchen sink at Obama. It worked, yet another testimonial that negative campaigns win elections. It happened to McCain in 2000, when malicious rumors spread during the primary campaign sank his candidacy. John Kerry's run for the presidency in 2004 was derailed by vicious attacks on his heroism during the Vietnam War. Hillary Clinton has been trashed repeatedly during her career, most recently by a senior Obama advisor who called her a "monster." Now Clinton claims that the presumptive Republican nominee would be a better commander-in-chief than Obama. She seems to be reveling in throwing that kitchen sink at him.

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