Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Analyst says Clinton banking on 'hillbilly firewall'

Hillary Clinton is banking on a "hillbilly firewall" to preserve her chances for the Democratic presidential nomination, says Chris Stirewalt, political editor of The Eaxminer in Washington and a former reporter for the Charleston Daily Mail in West Virginia.

"Stirewalt points out that of the remaining 566 Democratic delegates left to be won, 352 come from Appalachian states such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky," reports Scott Finn of West Virginia Public Broadcasting. (We are obliged to note that only West Virginia lies entirely in Appalachia, and that the region covers only minority parts of the other states.)

"Clinton is favored to win all those states except North Carolina," Finn notes. "If previous races in Ohio and Tennessee are a guide, she’ll enjoy heavy support from Appalachian counties. Clinton is behind in delegates and popular votes. Stirewalt says she has to win big in Appalachia to have any chance at the nomination." Stirewalt told Finn, "As the number of options for Hillary Clinton winnows down to a very few, you have to see that path takes her right through Appalachia."

Finn notes that Clinton and Obama differ little on the issues, "so it comes down to, who do we feel more comfortable around." University of Louisville political-science professor Laurie Rhodebeck told him, "We want our candidates to be people who would sit down and have a cup of coffee with us. We’re talking about race now, but if you think about the 2004 election, there was a lot of discomfort with Senator Kerry, because people just felt that he wasn’t quite like them. Whether it was the wealth, or the worldliness, the education, or the stiff demeanor, I’m not sure. And Al Gore got a bit of that in 2000. It may be that some of that hesitance is just playing out in a more extreme form with an African-American candidate."

Finn continues, "Stirewalt says it’s not exactly racism, but something more subtle…a feeling of, “I know who you are, and he doesn’t.” That’s why, he says, Hillary Clinton could beat John McCain in West Virginia, but Obama can’t. That's what polls suggest in both West Virginia and Kentucky. To read Finn's story, click here. To listen to it, click here.

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