Yesterday I wrote that a large win by Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama would mean little in West Virginia, where only 28 delegates were at stake. However, the totality of the win has to gain the attention of Democrats who hope to carry working-class union states like West Virginia in the fall. Not only did Hillary win by 40%, she won every single county, delivering a skunk to the front-running Obama late in the game:
The Associated Press and television networks projected Clinton as the winner seconds after polls closed, suggesting that surveys that showed her winning by a bruising margin were accurate. With over 40 percent of the vote in, Clinton held a more than two to one margin.
Clinton, who campaigned energetically in the state, insisted to West Virginians that their vote would still play a role in determining the party’s nominee. “I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard,” Clinton told jubilant supporters. “The White House is won in the swing states and I am winning the swing states.”
Exit polls again held signs of concern for Obama as Clinton’s margin was built among a West Virginia electorate that was largely white and working class – a demographic that has so far remained skeptical of Obama’s historic candidacy.
Just over a third of Clinton’s supporters said they would support Obama in the general election – and roughly the same number said they would support Arizona Sen John McCain.
No one expected Obama to do well in West Virginia, but I don’t recall any nominee having lost every single county in a primary when his nomination was mostly assured. Obama didn’t even come close in Kanawha County, where the state capital of Charleston is located, losing by 28 points there. He lost by 148,000 votes in a 330,000-vote contest. AP’s already covered the exit polling, but the number of Democrats who say they won’t vote for Obama keeps growing; majorities in WV will be unsatisfied if he wins the nomination and also think he’s dishonest and untrustworthy.
This won’t keep Obama from the nomination at this point, but without a doubt he will have to limp to the finish line. He can keep pretending that Hillary doesn’t matter and stay focused on McCain, but if Hillary runs the table in the meantime, he’s going to look out of touch. That will hardly build confidence in his abilities to fend off a candidate who has come back from the politically dead and from financial bankruptcy to beat a tough Republican field.
Expect more pressure on Hillary to quit now in order to rescue Obama from the debacle of a swooning finish. It won’t look good to have superdelegates rescue him at the end of a three-month losing streak only interrupted by the safe state of North Carolina, but it will look worse to roll into Denver with one win between February and August. Superdelegates will start coming out of the rafters to endorse Obama over the next week in order to avoid that.