According to Patrick Healy of the New York Times, “racial considerations emerged as an unusually salient factor” in yesterday’s West Virginia primary. Do tell.
I’m not going to link to it, but if you want to check out the latest by Armando, he’s still ranting about the problem Senator Obama has with white working-class voters and how nobody wants to talk about it (although seems to me everyone is talking about it) and that this problem must be “addressed,” but of course Armando himself doesn’t address it (see Kyle Moore).
Before I go any further, I want to explain once again that I am from a small mining town in white working-class southern Missouri , so please don’t call be an East Coast elitist for what I’m about to say: For the record, I don’t think racism is the only factor causing older, poorer and less educated whites to prefer Clinton. I suspect the “less educated” part is at least as salient. These are, after all, the same people who through the years have voted against their own best interests time and time again because they are so easily manipulated by the Right. Just tell them that if Democratic Candidate X is elected the Democrats will take away their Bibles, and you can count on them to vote Republican.
In spite of yesterday’s blowout, I agree with Michael Tomasky that it’s unlikely West Virginia would go for the Democratic nominee in November, even if that nominee is Hillary Clinton.
Clinton people are positing West Virginia as a “swing state” of just the sort that Democrats have to win. But in truth, West Virginia isn’t much of a swing state at all. It’s basically a Republican state now at the presidential level. It’s remotely possible that if Obama (assuming he’s the nominee) chooses exactly the right vice-presidential nominee, and campaigns in just the right way, he could carry the state. But only remotely. The truth is that West Virginia quit being a swing state in 2004, or possibly even 2000. Even if Clinton is the nominee, if her people are counting on West Virginia’s five electoral votes, they’re barking up a tree that doesn’t have many branches they can hold onto.
And this – the fact that most Democrats expect to lose West Virginia in November – governs national Democrats’ emotional response to Clinton’s win tonight. The Obama people figure that they can hit 270 – the number of electoral votes they’ll need to capture the White House – without West Virginia.
Clinton supporters point out that no Democrat has won the White House without West Virginia since 1916. Tomasky says that 1916 isn’t relevant now.
That was the beginning of the union era in America. We are now in the twilight, at best, of that era – at least until a Democratic president changes that equation. But for now, Obama can win the White House without West Virginia. Clinton could, too, if she somehow became the nominee. She’d have to. But the emotional factor works against her tonight. Most Democrats just don’t expect that they can paint West Virginia blue.
Matt Yglesias writes, tongue in cheek,
What’s even more interesting is that no Democrat has won the White House without carrying Minnesota since 1912 (it went for Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose party) so given that Obama won Minnesota and Clinton won West Virginia, McCain is guaranteed to win the general election unless the eventual nominee can somehow completely replicate the social and political conditions prevailing in pre-WWI America. The outlook, in short, is very grim.
One of the reasons I support Obama is that he has the potential of putting together a whole new Democratic/progressive coalition that will entirely change the old voting patterns that, increasingly, work against the Dems. Senator Clinton continues to run a 20th-century campaign based on 20th-century assumptions, which is one of the reasons she’s losing.
For that matter, Iâ€™m not sure if the swing-state argument is the most compelling one for the Clinton team. Even if we designate West Virginia as a swing state (itâ€™s a dubious proposition in light of Bushâ€™s 13-point victory there four years ago), Obama seems to have just as strong a swing-state case to make, if not more so â€” heâ€™s won Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The Obama campaign points out that, overall, Obama’s support among white voters is comparable to that of Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. That is to say, the white vote hasn’t been helping the Dems all that much for a while. Democrats really do need the African American vote, however, which Clinton is unlikely to get. I’m not sure if Armando has addressed that problem, however.