Friday, May 16, 2008

A Quick Follow Up on the West Virginia Primary

So indeed Hillary did win the West Virginia primary by 40-plus points, and although the margin of that victory has stirred up arguments about Obama's problems with less-educated white voters his drubbing hasn't led to any large scale shift in allegiances among the powers-that-be in the Democratic Party.  In other words, things have played out pretty much as expected this week.  The last really important day of the Democratic race will likely be next Tuesday, when voters in Kentucky and Oregon go to the polls.  There's little doubt that Hillary will win decisively in Kentucky (though almost certainly not by the kind of margin she got in West Virginia) but unless she somehow pulls the upset over Obama in Oregon the last of her momentum, and therefore the last of her hopes, will be extinguished.  She'll probably stay in the race through the last of the nomination contests --Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Montana-- but it will be clear to her supporters that things are over.

As for the actual West Virginia results, a look at the county-by-county presidential numbers provided vivid evidence of something which is appreciated by West Virginians but apparently by few outside pundits: how strikingly different the various parts of the state can be politically.  Here are the four counties in which Barack Obama did best in the state and his respective margins of defeat (rounded to the nearest half-percentage point):

Jefferson County Clinton +3.5
Berkeley County Clinton +14.5
Monongalia County Clinton +17
Morgan County Clinton +22.5


For you non-West Virginians, Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan are the three counties that make up the easternmost portion of the Eastern Panhandle and are culturally part of the D.C. metro area.  Monongalia County, home to West Virginia University and culturally influenced by Pittsburgh, is (of course) the state's center of learning.  All four counties are in the vanguard of West Virginia counties in prosperity, population growth, and diversity.

Here are the four counties in which Obama did worst:

Lincoln County Clinton +67
Wyoming County Clinton +69
Logan County Clinton +74.5
Mingo County Clinton +79.5


All four, with high rates of poverty and low levels of education, are in the heart of the southern part of the state.

Obama didn't win a single county on Tuesday, but the differences in how he performed between counties are strong proof against any notion that West Virginia is a politically and culturally homogenous state.

(County-by-county results obtained from this Politico interactive map.)

No comments: