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Are Edwards Voters Obama Voters?

Who will get John Edwards's votes? The exit polls give a split verdict. Those in Iowa and South Carolina show a slight tilt to Hillary Clinton. If you look at those voters among whom Edwards enjoyed disproportionate strength, it was among voters less likely to switch to Obama. In Iowa, it was among older (60-64 years old) and conservative voters. In South Carolina, it was among older (60 years and up), white male, moderate or somewhat conservative voters who wanted to keep troops in Iraq "as long as needed." 

In these states, Edwards appears to have picked up white voters who wouldn't vote for Obama. In South Carolina, 35 percent of Edwards' voters said the country is "definitely not ready" for a black president. Only 22 percent of these voters said the country was "definitely not ready" for a woman president. Edwards' voters in South Carolina were also more dissatisfied with the prospect of an Obama nomination than a Clinton one. Fifty percent of Edwards' voters in South Carolina said they would be "somewhat dissatisfied" and 44 percent "very dissatisfied" with Obama's nomination. With Edwards out of the field, some of these voters may not vote at all; but if they do, they seem more likely to back Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama.

In New Hampshire, however, the story is a little different. Edwards ran strongest in New Hampshire among white, male, unionized, religiously observant Catholic voters who saw themselves as "moderates." Twenty-nine percent of Edwards' supporters had a "strongly unfavorable" view of Hillary Clinton; only 10 percent had a "strongly unfavorable" view of Obama. The exit polls didn't ask about social issues, but my guess is that these Edwards voters were more socially conservative on issues like abortion than the Clinton or Obama voters. These kind of Democratic primary voters will be common in states like Ohio, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Some of them might switch to Obama.  

So who comes out ahead? I think it's very inconclusive. Clinton will pick up votes from Obama in some Southern states like Georgia that Obama should win anyway—and Obama will pick up a few votes in middle Atlantic or Midwestern states that Clinton will probably win anyway.