How Kentucky, West Virginia and Racism Could Screw Up the Clinton Exit
Way back in February, the day of the Potomac Primary, I wrote that what happened in the mountains of Virginia and Maryland could presage what would happen in the Appalachian parts of other states. Clinton pulled up to 90% in some of those counties, and she's won the Appalachian regions of every state contested.
The region also has given Barack Obama by far his lowest share of the vote; this map by Kossack Meng Bomin shows that outside of Arkansas that Clinton's biggest wins (depicted in red, vs the Green Obama counties) have almost all been in Appalachia:
George Packer offers some evidence that in Appalachia it's racism:On Wednesday, I was in Inez, Kentucky, the Appalachian town where L.B.J. declared war on poverty forty-four years ago this month. John McCain was on a tour of "forgotten places"...After [McCain's] speech, I left the county courthouse and crossed the main street to talk to a small group of demonstrators holding signs next to McCain’s campaign bus. J. K. Patrick, a retired state employee from a neighboring county, wore a button on his shirt that said "Hillary: Smart Choice."Many pundits have declared that Obama has a "race problem," or a "working class problem," or more specifically a "white working class" problem. Meng Bomin's map doesn't suggest a racial problem; Obama has done extremely well in many parts of the country that are almost entirely white, including several places with primaries instead of caucuses. …
"East of Lexington she’ll carry seventy per cent of the primary vote," he said. Kentucky votes on May 20. "She could win the general election in Kentucky." I asked about Obama. "Obama couldn’t win."
"Race," Patrick said matter-of-factly. "I’ve talked to people—a woman who was chair of county elections last year, she said she wouldn’t vote for a black man." Patrick said he wouldn’t vote for Obama either.
"Race. I really don’t want an African-American as President. Race."
It appears that Appalachia has an Obama problem.The good news is, it's not fatal.
If doing well in Appalachia—which has only about 18-20 million of the almost 300 million people who live in America—were necessary for an Obama win, he would be in deep trouble. But there aren't enough people in Appalachia to present a big problem, especially since the region makes up a relatively small part of the population of most of the states it touches. (The Appalachian counties of Pennsylvania are a bit different than the rest of the region, as they are much more Catholic than the rest of Appalachia and more ethnically diverse, with a decent number of Italians, Slavs and Germans mixed in with the most Scots-Irish and descendants of the 18th century immigrants from the English backcountry that dominate the rest of Appalachia. Those counties, in fact, are the only part of Appalachia where Obama did OK, and actually improved on his performance over similar counties in Ohio).