Jumping off a sinking ship and jumping on the bandwagon are just doing what comes naturally, right? Not for Hillary Clinton’s supporters in KY, who stuck by their candidate, despite the certainty that Barack Obama’s win in OR would push him past her in pledged delegates. And as in WV and other states in which Hillary beat Obama by huge margins, mainly on the strength of her appeal to white working class voters, her base plans to stick with her no matter what.  

In exit polling, nearly half of KY Dems said they would not support Obama against John McCain in the general election (in OR 13 percent of each candidate’s voters said they wouldn’t support his or her rival). Of the KY voters saying they would not support Obama in November, 41 percent said they would support McCain and 23 percent said they would not vote. The exit polling did not ask whether Hillary’s supporters would write her name in the ballot – and grassroots organizations have sprung up to push the idea.   

Hillary won KY by an eye-popping 65 percent to 30 percent; Obama took OR with a respectable double digit lead (58 percent to 42 percent). KY’s Dem primary voters are overwhelmingly white (the state is 90.4 percent white, according to 2005 census data) – but OR is actually a shade whiter (90.8 percent).

So why the wildly disparate results? Race certainly played a factor, but Southern whites are a different socioeconomic species than whites in OR:  Only a third of KY voters describe themselves as “liberal” vs. 57 percent of OR voters; ¾ of white voters in KY have not completed college, whereas half of OR voters are white working class; and just 11 percent of KY voters never attend church, as compared to 34 percent of OR voters.  

Here’s how the vote totals break down, according to exits polls of 1,407 Dem primary voters in 30 precincts across KY and telephone polling between May 12th and 18th of 1,201 people who said they definitely had voted or definitely would vote in OR (the state conducts its elections entirely by mail, so a literal “exit poll” could not be conducted):   

† As in AR, Obama lost the white vote in KY to Hillary by a 50-point margin. In OR, Obama won white voters by 14 points (57-43 percent).  

† Blacks accounted for 9 percent of voters in KY, and Obama captured 90 percent of their votes. However, unlike AL MS where blacks made up half the electorate, this overwhelming support amongst black voters did little to overcome Hillary’s support amongst white voters. Ditto OR, where blacks made up only three percent of the vote. 

† In KY, men and women alike overwhelmingly chose Hillary, while in OR Obama did very well amongst men (65 percent to 34 percent), but split the woman’s vote with Hillary (51-48 percent).

These results from the KY and OR primaries send up more red flags about Obama’s appeal amongst working-class white voters, “a group that corresponds roughly to the demographics of swing voters, the coveted bloc that can tip the outcome of the general election,” observes The Wall Street Journal. Whereas blue collar whites in KY went for Hillary by a 4:1 margin, in OR Obama split their votes with her (51 percent vs. 48 percent). 

Southern whites seem particularly resistant to Obamamania. Hillary has now beaten Obama by at least 40 percentage points amongst this group in AL, AR, KY, MS, TN and WV.  In KY, it wasn’t just blue collar whites supporting Hillary – she won college-educated whites by nearly 2:1 and those with post-graduate education by 17 points, and the youth vote by 13 points. She even beat Obama across the political spectrum: liberals (by 24 points); moderates (2:1); and conservatives (4:1). And while Obama usually wins the independent vote handily, he beat Hillary by a mere seven points amongst these voters (in OR he won the independent vote 67 percent to 32 percent).

In his victory speech in Des Moines, IA, Obama said: “We have … a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in America.”

But reaching and grasping are two different things, and in her victory speech in Louisville, KY, Hillary made the distinction: “Neither Sen. Obama nor I has won the 2,210 delegates required to secure the nomination. And because this race is so close – still separated by less than 200 delegates out of 4,400 – neither Sen. Obama nor I will have reached that magic number when the voting ends.” [Hillary’s magic number includes the FL and MI delegation, which she is still pushing to get seated at the Dem convention, not the lower threshold of 2,026 delegates to which Obama referred in his speech]. 

Hillary also noted, “This is one of the closest races for a party’s nomination in modern history,” adding, “I’m told that more people have voted for me than for anyone who has ever run for the Democratic nomination. That is more than 17 million votes.” This is a far stronger rationale for Hilary to pursue a third-party candidacy than Ralph Nader or Bob Barr could ever dream of.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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