Hillary’s Last Hurrah

As widely expected, the Hillbillies for Hillary gave Clinton her last hurrah in West Virginia. She’ll win again in Kentucky, but the win will be offset by victory for Obama in Oregon where Clinton is far behind in the polls, including among women. She is also favored in Puerto Rico, but by that time she will be even further behind with no chance at a comeback.

Clinton, often looking back at the past as opposed to towards the future, is fond of citing historical precedents in elections. Matthew Yglesias helps debunk the importance of West Virginia:

As the Clinton campaign sagely points out “no Democrat has won the White House without winning West Virginia since 1916” and therefore Obama’s primary loss shows that despite his large lead in the polls over John McCain, he can’t possible win the election.

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.

Fortunately Obama brings many states much larger than West Virginia into play.

Undoubtedly the Clinton camp will spin this as evidence that Obama cannot win the votes of the working class. The real difference is type of working voters. Clinton has consistently out performed Obama in Appalachia. One in four Clinton voters admitted that race was a factor in their vote. Trends in southern states from before the Civil Rights Act was enacted provide little predictive value today.

ABC News took a closer look at the numbers with regards to Obama and working class whites. They do note that “Whites who don’t have a college degree have voted for Hillary Clinton by a 2-1 margin.” However primaries and general elections are two different things. In a general election campaign, Clinton would be hampered by her poor support among educated whites:

Obama, with his upscale appeal, does better among better-educated whites: McCain’s just +3 vs. Obama, compared with McCain’s 12-point advantage against Clinton among college-educated whites. That accounts for Obama’s better showing against McCain overall, 51-44 percent in our poll, vs. 49-46 percent in a Clinton-McCain matchup.

The differences are partially geographical, with Obama doing better among working class whites once you get away from Appalachia. ABC notes that, “Obama won less-educated whites in the Vermont and Wisconsin primaries, was +2 in Utah and came within 4 points in his home state of Illinois (although in each he again did better with upscale whites).” Obama also does better among working class whites than John Kerry and Al Gore did. ABC reports, “they lost working-class whites to George W. Bush by 24 points and 17 points, respectively.”

If we look ahead to a general election campaign, there is plenty of reason to believe that Obama can improve his support among working class whites. Many who voted for Clinton as their first choice will vote for Obama over John McCain. Obama also does better in states the more they are exposed to him. I’ve already noted two states, New Jersey and California, where Clinton won the primary but Obama now leads Clinton in the polls. In contrast, the affluent, educated, socially liberal independents who Obama brought into the party but Clinton supporters disparage as “elites” are not likely to vote for Hillary Clinton.


  1. 1
    UncommonSense says:

    The analysis in this post is spot on.

    And don’t forget that when Hillary and Terry McAuliffe and Howard Wolfson talk about “winning” the nomination, they are referring to a backroom deal with superdelegates to deny the nomination to Obama, despite the fact that he outperformed her by every measure.

    While Obama can reasonably expect to retain and build upon his support from white voters should he win the nomination, Clinton would be foolish to think she would retain the Democratic nominee’s traditional support among black voters after seizing it with a superdelegate coup.

    And she would be similarly foolish to assume that white voters who chose her over Obama for “cultural” reasons would necessarily choose her over McCain.

    If she really succeeds at this effort to wrest the nomination from the candidate who won more contests, more votes, and more delegates than she did, she will very likely find the prize not worth having.

  2. 2
    Ryan says:

    If only NJ and CA had realized the error of their ways sooner, this would have all been over with in early February. Better late than never…

  3. 3
    LooseKannon says:

    A suggestion to the Obama camp:
    You’ve got to deflate her spin balloon before she gets the chance to blow it up. You’ve got to point out that she’ll try to use this modest victory to convince the super-delegates that only she can win the general. You’ve got to point out that she’ll try to present what happened today as a microcosm of what will happen in November. You’ve got to point out that, although she may not use terms that are as overtly racial as she did last week, a lot of what she’s going to say is going to be code words for the same divisive and regressive language she’s used previously.
    And you’ve got to point out that what she’s presenting and the manner in which she’s presenting it are wrong.

  4. 4
    MsJoanne says:

    What #1 said.

    Ron, brilliant post!  Thank you for putting this together. 

    I think at this stage, it’s all about money and personal loans and the like.  HRC knows she’s done.  She ran a poor campaign and it just did not go well for her.  And to that, I credit her management style (or lack thereof).

    Whatever…done and over with except for figuring out the funding aspect of pulling out.

    Again, GREAT post!

  5. 5
    Evan says:

    I really wish the woman in that picture wasn’t disgracing my alma mater by wearing that sweatshirt and being associated to the man holding the sign.

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