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 Friday, May 16, 2008

What's The Big Deal About Hillary's Win in West Virginia?

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Much has been made in the days since the West Virginia primary about the implications of Hillary Clinton’s overwhelming victory there. It has been used by the Clinton camp to prove that Barack Obama can’t get white, working-class votes and therefore makes Hillary the best candidate for the Democratic Party in November.

West Virginia is a mostly rural, mostly white, mostly female, mostly native-born, mostly poor, mostly less educated population, with at least a tinge of racism thrown into the mix.

West Virginia has a total population of about 1.8 million. The largest city, Charleston has about 53,000 residents. The population is 96% white and 51% female. Only about 1% of the state’s residents are foreign-born, ranking 50th out of 50 states.

On the economic front, West Virginia is third lowest in per capita income, ahead of only Arkansas and Mississippi. They rank last in median household income. The growth in GDP in West Virginia ranks 49th out of 50.

On education, West Virginia has the lowest percentage of people with a college degree in the country.

On the historical perspective, I don’t want to make any assertions about the people of West Virginia, but it must be included as part of the equation. Robert Byrd, a former member of the KKK has been a Senator from West Virginia since 1959 and in exit polling 20% of the voters cited race as an important factor in their choice between Clinton and Obama.

If there were a state where the numbers were reversed I suspect the margin of victory for Obama would be the same as Hillary’s was in West Virginia.

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