Connecticut broke with its Northeastern neighbors in the Democratic primary on Super Tuesday to support presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, who narrowly edged out Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73, 51 to 47 percent. And here in the Elm City — where the Illinois senator dominated by a 2-1 margin — Obama’s victory proved particularly resounding.
On the Republican side, meanwhile, Arizona Senator John McCain triumphed throughout the Nutmeg State, including in New Haven, with a 52 to 33 percent victory. Across the country, McCain captured more delegates and more states — nine of the 20 that had been called at presstime — than any of his opponents.
Nationally, however, the race remained open-ended into the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
Clinton scored key victories in delegate-rich states including California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts while Obama captured a greater number of states overall.
With McCain’s wins in California and New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, he took a big step out in front of the Republican pack — even as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney collected wins in six states and former Governor Mike Huckabee scored upsets in several Southern states, including Tennessee, Georgia and his home state, Arkansas. Still, while McCain was finally able to proclaim front-runner status, neither Clinton nor Obama had the delegates to declare victory.
Instead, both Democrats clung to their campaign rhetoric in speeches reminiscent of the stump indicating that while they will assuredly seek to spin and tout their state victories, both expect a prolonged battle for delegates leading up to the convention.
Back in the Constitution State, McCain’s win, while more commanding than Obama’s state-wide, was not the big story last night. Over two-thirds of Connecticut voters were Democrats.
Even though no clear Democratic winner emerged out of Super Tuesday, in New Haven, the big story last night was how the candidate pegged as being for hope and for change united and won over its melting pot of residents.
With all 30 wards reporting in New Haven on Tuesday night, Obama defeated Clinton with 12,033 tallies to her 5,727.
And unlike other locations throughout the country where support for Obama split along ethnic lines — in California, for instance, whites and blacks voted primarily for Obama, while Hispanics and Asians leaned toward Clinton, according to exit polls — New Haven leaders said yesterday’s primary suggested that Elm City residents are not subject to such divisions.
Democratic Town Committee co-chair Susan Voight, who supported Obama, said his overwhelming win was the result of an unprecedented outreach effort in every ward across the city. Obama’s victories in all but three wards, she said, included five of six wards with a sizeable Hispanic population — a demographic that typically favors Clinton.
“New Haven clearly came together, but it did so especially in Hispanic neighborhoods where, in other places, Barack has not done as well,” Voight said. “New Haven has realized that race, ethnicity and age are not barriers — so I’m not surprised. I think it’s in line with any number of issues, such as the Elm City Resident Program.”
Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez — whose Hill neighborhood chose Obama over Clinton, 398 to 239 — said this was the case in his ward, which is largely Hispanic.
“[Race] is just a tactic to be used to divide people, at least in New Haven,” Perez said.
Instead, Perez said, Obama — and the 2008 election in general — has been a rallying point for people who believed his talk of change was more than just talk.
“No question voting is much higher than it’s been in New Haven in a long time,” he added.
Clinton supporter Ward 13 Alderman Alex Rhodeen conceded that Obama had strong support in the city. Rhodeen’s ward is one of the most racially balanced in the city, he added, and it went to Obama, 313 to 235.
But New Haven did not differ from national racial trends in all respects. Rhodeen said turnout in his ward was especially high among black constituents.
In Georgia, for example, blacks supported Obama by a 6-1 margin.
And while Obama won more votes in the wealthier cities in the western part of the state, Clinton came out on top in the east.
Although he prefers Clinton, Rhodeen said that he will definitely support the eventual Democratic nominee.
Voight said she saw Elis from all branches of the University — not just College students — out canvassing yesterday, including the Law School and the School of Management.
“If you want to win in New Haven you have to win a full-court, full-press campaign,” she said. “That’s why we are able to win by a 2-1 margin.”
In Yale’s own wards Obama racked up large victories — though not the largest in the city. Ward 1 swung to Obama 552 to 172, and Ward 22 — which also includes many non-Yale residents — supported him by a margin of 515 to 96.
Ward 21 had the largest victory margin for Obama, where he won 88.5 percent of the vote.
Roy Occhiogrosso, a Democratic strategist from Connecticut, said Connecticut has a long history of voting for the underdog candidate, noting that it was the only New England state to support Obama.
Although he said he was not comparing Obama to any other candidate, he pointed out that Connecticut had voted for Gary Hart in 1984 and Jerry Brown in 1992, both of whom ultimately failed to win the nomination.