Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You Got a Purty Mouth!

Ah, West Virginia. The mountaineers handed Clinton a 41-point victory, with HRC getting 67% to Obama's 26%. John Edwards got 7%.

My initial thought is that Terry McAuliffe is quite the optimist! When I looked at the raw numbers (239,000 for Clinton, 91,000 for Obama), I wondered where the 1.1 million voters went that McAuliffe touted on Meet the Press Sunday when he was begging, "Let My People...Vote."

Silly me. He didn't mean EXPECTED voters. He meant ALL registered voters. Apparently, he expected the entire state, even the Republicans, to turn out for the D primary. If your argument is that Clinton can capture the popular vote lead, using 1.1 million voters is more impressive than 300,000.

West Virginia did as expected, though, and Clinton picked up 147,000 in the popular vote, bringing the delegate totals to 1881 for Obama and 1713 for Clinton.

Mighty White of you, West Virginia!

The New York Times today highlights the “salience” of race in this contest, which was touted in Ipopa yesterday. Keep up, NYT!

Depending on your personal views, here is an either astonishing or not at all surprising fact culled from the exit polls:

Two in 10 white West Virginia voters said race was an important factor in their votes. More than 8 in 10 who said it factored in their votes backed Mrs. Clinton, according to exit polls.

Moreover, while Obama has consistently fared better than Clinton on trustworthiness, more than half of West Virginians say Obama is not honest and trustworthy. Those voters were also likely to say that Obama shares the views of Reverend Wright.

People may say, "This is about Reverend Wright. That doesn't mean these voters have racial issues." I'm not saying they don't want to let him sit at their lunch counter. But it's certainly clear that West Virginians give less benefit of the doubt to Obama than other states, which calls into question the underlying source of the mistrust. At some point, isn't the spread between Clinton and Obama so statistically significant that you have to believe it's at least partically race-based?

Having traveled to (and talked with folks in) every Indiana county, I know there is a sense that some still battle racist attitudes. I'll never forget talking to a well-known Democrat in a southern Indiana county who said the best thing Dwayne Brown, the first black man to run for a statewide office in Indiana, could do to campaign was to NOT come to the county and to make sure his picture was not on any of his campaign literature. Another party leader in a southern county advised, "Stay North of U.S. 40." Surely, they knew their own people.

Admittedly, this was back in 1990 when Brown was seeking to become the Clerk of the Supreme and Appellate Courts, so it might be better now. Let me take a look....

Okay, I just looked at the Indiana counties that went for Clinton by 75% or more: Daviess, Dearborn, Ohio, Scott and Switzerland. Both of the counties where these gentlemen lived are in that list. Not too inspiring.

(By the way, a big shout out to Morgan County! They gave Obama 37%. Many civic leaders there are truly trying to changing Morgan County's image, and it's a welcome change. I hope you can send your "new image" playbook to the aforementioned counties).

West Virginia had a staggering number of counties with seventy-five percent or better for Clinton, and in Mingo County, West Virginia, Clinton got EIGHTY-EIGHT percent of the vote. I'm just saying......that MIGHT be a good place to hold a klan meetin.'

But who cares about West Virginia, right?

Presidential history. And it cares deeply. Since 1916, there has not been a single Democrat elected who did not carry West Virginia. Gore and Kerry both lost WV. And HALF of the D primary voters said they would not back Obama in the fall if he becomes the nominee. That's concerning to a lot of party people, and Clinton knows it.

And make no mistake, West Virginia will be lost. Obama did not campaign there, which probably compounded the "not one of us" mistrust that he will struggle to undo in the general election. In addition, The National Review posited a rather conspiratorial view that the Clintons are engaged in a slash and burn campaign to make sure Clinton can come back against McCain in four years. Listen to this coded rhetoric from Bill Clinton that certainly helped ensure that Obama won't carry West Virginia:

"Hillary is in this race because of people like you and places like this and no matter what they say," Clinton said. "And no matter how much fun they make of your support of her and the fact that working people all over America have stuck with her, she thinks you're as smart as they are. She thinks you've got as much right to have your say as anybody else. And, you know, they make a lot of fun of me because I like to campaign in places like this, they say I have been exiled to rural America, as if that was a problem. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be here than listening to that stuff I have to hear on television, I'd rather be with you. There is a simple reason: You need a president a lot more than those people telling you not to vote for her."

Bill Clinton is stoking the populist (and ominous) "they are all against you" argument, which allows WV voters to insert the hobgoblin of their choice as the "they." Clinton is also bonding with voters by telling them they're smarter than all the pundits. (Ed. Note - This is a dubious assertion, given that 70% of WV D voters never went to college. If it's Tim Russert vs. Billy Bob Bungalee from Logan County, WV on an SAT or IQ exam, I'll take Russert).

Can Obama make presidential history twice by overcoming a West Virginia loss? The Red Sox won the World Series by being the first team to ever come back from three games down in any professional sport, so sometimes history happens in bunches. Anything is possible.

The task for Obama's campaign is to come up with new "map math" to show that it can pick up "new" states, such as Colorado, to offset any potential West Virginia loss. But the longer Clinton stays in, the harder an Obama general election victory becomes. And she knows it.



Anonymous said...

Is WV even a swing state anymore? It looks to be as red now as Indiana - perhaps redder.

Historically, it may have been a canary in the presidential coal mine, but now it's doubtful either Hillary or Obama could win there unless the country goes in a landslide.

And really, if the Dem nominee can't do without WV's 5 electoral votes this time around, then the Party has much bigger problems.

This election will be about pushing the Midwest (possible exception for Indiana) and interior western states (hello Colorado! viva New Mexico!) from purple to blue and quarantining McCain to the South (of which WV is a part culturally, if not geographically).


varangianguard said...

Don't worry, y'all. Senator Byrd will make sure that West Virginia comes through. It's not like he's just off the political bus, or anything.

Anonymous said...

and I recall a converstaion many years ago that I had with the late Democratic campaign legend Matt Reese as I drive him around Indiana for a day and a half.
He explained about West Virginia and how he had to drag JFK's ass down there to campaign. Reese bodily forced JFK to ride down into a coal shaft. On top od that and a sizable amount of cash in the right places to grease the skid Reese got the votes for JFK in WV.
Obama and his handlers made a mistake not going into WV. It may very likely cost him the nomination.
Say what you will about WV and racism but you can take it to the bank that they hated Catholics more in 1960.

John M said...

There were 17 states more competitive than WV in 2000 and at least 21 more competitive in 2004. It's now a red state for presidential purposes. Most of these "the Democrats can't win without X" presume a static map. It just isn't the case. Both Al Gore and John Kerry nearly won the election despite losing badly in WV. (And of course, if we want to play this game with Clinton/Obama, no Democrat has won the White House without Minnesota since 1912, and Obama won the MN Primary).

Prognosticators tend to forget that presidential elections occur only 20 times a century and each election involves unique circumstances. Take the 1976 map: Gerry Ford won California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and lost. Any Republican who won those states today would be looking at a 1964/1984-type landslide. Yet, 30 years later the 1976 map looks completely foreign. Undoubtedly, border states such as WV and Kentucky are less friendly to Democrats than in the past. On the other hand, upper New England and the Northwest are becoming more favorable.

As for Morgan County, it would be interesting to see a breakdown between suburbanized Mooresville and the rest of the county.

John M said...

"Obama and his handlers made a mistake not going into WV. It may very likely cost him the nomination."

That's ridiculous. Obama is overwhelmingly likely to win the nomination. And going to WV for a week would not have turned a 40 point loss in to a competitive race. The Kennedy comparisons are interesting but ultimately irrelevant. Kennedy really needed WV in a way that Obama doesn't.

Chris Worden said...

I love my readers. Every comment is insightful and measured, not vitriolic and emotional, even though I injected the dreaded
"race" component into this story. Please keep up the good comments, folks. We'll all learn more and be able to put a different eye on how we perceive political events.

Anonymous said...

I was in Marietta, OH yesterday, and swung down to Parkersburg, WV 12 miles away for lunch. (There were TONS of Obama signs everywhere, and a few Ron Paul signs!) During checking out of my hotel, I asked how to get to parkersberg, and the old guy ended the directions with "you'll see a bunch of old plantations on your way, you can just pretend they're out there working." I chuckled and left, and then realized was that a racist remark?

Anyways, at the same time, if this is a painfully objective website....where was the mention of the vast majority of blacks voting for a black president? Sure some whites are voting for clinton, but how many black voters are voting for Hillary? I don't see a heck of a lot of difference between the two...

Anonymous said...

john m, no candidate takes any state for granted and the Obama campaign completely writing off the Democratic party in WV speaks volumes about a candidate who thinks he has this race sewn up. He doesn't, it will be decided in the convention and it will be decided by the super delegates.
The manner in which the Obama campaign approached WV DEMOCRATIC VOTERS was akin to flipping them the bird and telling them he didn't give a damn about any of those peckerwoods, as some of his campaign people called them.
Arrogance? Elitism? That's how many viewed it.
Bottom line, Obama cannot win in the general election, even against the likes of John McCain. Would Hillary fare better? Probably not but 40 point spreds in WV and soon in Kentucky certainly put the Obama campaign in serious doubt come convention.
If Obama can't pull the white vote in a general election he's not going to win. Blowing off WV was a huge mistake at this point on the grand game and the super delegates took notice.

John M said...

Well, 12:17, when do you expect this flood of superdelegates to begin? I think Obama is the only candidate who has disclosed any additional endorsements today. And John Edwards, who knows a bit about Appalachia, will endorse Obama tonight. Obama ignored WV because he had no chance in the primary and no chance in the general there. It happens all the time in primary and general elections. Since you are so fond of the JFK analogies, Kennedy's razor-thin win against Richard Nixon in 1960 was at least in part attributable to Nixon's silly and time-wasting quest to campaign in all 50 states.

Yes, the superdelegates will decide the election. They will decide it within the next month. Not even Clinton's most shameless sychophants (e.g., Terry McAuliffe) will claim that this is going to the Convention. It's over, Obama will be the nominee, and WV won't have a thing to do with it.

Anonymous said...

Polls are actually showing that an Obama McCain race in Indiama could be won by Obama. I know that there is a lot of time between now and November but at least at this point we are in the game. Usually we are all ready to put our electoral votes in the red column.