Hillary Clinton’s landside victory in West Virginia Tuesday past is most likely a foreshadowing of what is to come in Kentucky on May 20th. Not even the most optimistic Obama supporter is predicting victory in the BluegrassState. The question will be on the margin.
West Virginia has 665,000 Democratic voters. Turn out was approximately 50% - Clinton took 67% of the vote. For those who haven’t seen cable or network news shows in the past week, the demographics of WV is mostly white.
Nearly a quarter of the voters in West Virginia's primary were 60 or older, and a similar share had no education beyond high school, exit polls indicated. More than half were in families with incomes of $50,000 or less. It is a voting bloc that Clinton is courting hard.
Clinton announced that no Democrat could win without West Virginia. That’s sort of true – but not the whole story. In 2000, Al Gore won 72% of the Democratic primary vote – and lost in West Virginia to George W. Bush by 6%. In 2004, John Kerry got 69% of West Virginia’s primary voters – then lost to George W. Bush by 13%. Winning in West Virginia in a Democratic primary is no guarantor of success in the general election.
Voters in Kentucky, like voters in West Virginia, are older, poorer and less well educated than the rest of the nation. It is fertile ground for Hillary Clinton’s Southern strategy. What was whispered in Clinton’s strategy meetings – that Obama cannot win the blue collar, white voter – is now being spoken aloud by the candidate. That message will play in rural, conservative Kentucky.
This is such a sad, last ditch effort from a competitor in a campaign with more ups and downs than a made for Lifetime movie. Clinton has been tough, tender, teary eyed, strident, warm, understanding and at times, funny. She has hung in with the men like the competitor she is. Now, sadly, she is using a strategy that hurts her party and harkens back to an ugly time in American politics. It will win her votes in Kentucky, but so what?
If the pundits’ charts and graphs are right, she will not get the nomination in Denver. If they are correct, she is too smart not to know it. Every day, more superdelegates pledge to Obama. At this point, it is a matter of math. Kentucky and the few states left will not boost her over the top.
If she knows she cannot win the nomination, what is her goal? Does she really believe that kneecapping Obama will make him want her on his ticket?
Is her goal to leave him so bloodied that even John McCain, the newest environmentalist, can beat him? Then in four years, when the country’s problems are four times worse, she will still be young enough to run again.
If Obama wins, will she work for four years in the Senate to prepare for a second run? If Obama is not able to jumpstart the economy and work the “miracle” we all seem to think we are entitled to, there will be wolves from both parties in the shadows waiting to bring him down. Senator Clinton may be one of those wolves.
Former President Clinton appears to be so totally committed to Hillary’s victory that he is slinging a hard won rehabilitated reputation out the window. After the embarrassing end of his presidency, his charitable work has brought him back into a friendlier public eye. Even teaming up with the senior Bush to raise money for tsunami relief, Mr. Clinton was on his way to be a power broker using his power for the less fortunate.
It appears his vaunted political judgment sleeps beneath his ambition. One has to wonder why Bill Clinton wants to be the First Gentleman. His personality is just too big for that job. If Hillary is on Obama’s ticket in the second spot, what role will there be for Bill?
Whatever happens on the national scene, this Tuesday’s election in Kentucky may show what kind of people we are in Kentucky. The pundits will dissect voters here like they cut up West Virginia voter. It may prove a painful experience for Kentuckians.