The Democratic voters in the state of West Virginia are doing a fine job of making their primary completely irrelevant. The Mountaineer State has decided that they will support Hillary Clinton, but is their strong vote for Clinton a vote against Obama?
I am sure that the Clinton people are going to try to use their 40 or so point win tonight to put doubt into the minds of the superdelegates. As Clinton has become fond of saying, since 1916 no Democrat who failed to carry West Virginia in the general election has won the White House. The implication of her statement being that a big victory in West Virginia equals victory in the fall.
However, her logic is deeply flawed. Al Gore won almost 70% of the Democratic Primary vote in the state in 2000, and he lost by 6% to George W. Bush in the fall. John Kerry also secured over 60% of the primary vote, and he lost to Bush by 13% in 2004. Judging by recent history it might be good news for Barack Obama that Clinton is going to carry the state.
West Virginia is older, whiter, and has deeper pockets of poverty than much of the nation. This state, along with Kentucky, is a place where she should roll. Remember, without Obama putting a full media blitz on Pennsylvania, she probably would have won by more there too. While Clinton is going to try to make her victory tonight look like a game changer, it is really only a small state with a narrow demographic that is a perfect fit for Clinton.
I don’t think that a vote for Clinton is necessarily a vote against Obama. Much like their Western Pennsylvania neighbors, West Virginia loves the Clinton. (Clinton crushed Obama by more than 30% in Western PA).
If Democrats in the state want to vote with their hearts, that’s fine, but let’s not pretend her victory is anything more than a love letter to a fallen candidate. In the big picture, West Virginia doesn’t change anything. It is now only a matter of time before this race is officially over, and Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee.