Race, religion and rurality were the keys to Hillary Clinton's 35-point victory in Kentucky's presidential primary today, according to the exit poll
taken for national news organizations. (There were no exit polls in Oregon, which Barack Obama won, because that state's election was held entirely by mail.) The results, similar to those last week in West Virginia, prompted some pundits to say Clinton should announce that she doesn't want racially motivated votes. (Photo by Michael Hayman, The Courier-Journal)
Among Kentucky Democrats, 21 percent said the race of the candidates was important to their vote, and 81 percent of those voted for Clinton. Among whites, it was 86 percent. (Asked about gender, 16 percent said it was important, and 79 percent of those voted for Clinton. Most were women.) The results of the exit poll were very similar to the poll taken in West Virginia a week ago.
Race is a tricky subject for pollsters, because many people won't speak honestly about it to strangers. Sometimes related questions reveal more, and that seemed to be the case when Kentucky Democrats were asked about Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright; 54 percent said Obama at least somewhat shares Wright's controversial views, and 84 percent of those voters went for Clinton. She did even better, 91 percent, among those who said the two men share "a lot" of views.
The views of a pastor are more important if voters go to church a lot. In Kentucky, 45 percent of Democratic voters said they attend church at least weekly, and it's reasonable to conclude that many of them can't understand how he could attend a church for 20 years and not somewhat share the views of its pastor. More than half of the voters said Obama does not share their values, and 89 percent of those who said he doesn't voted for Clinton.
Among voters who live in rural areas, Clinton won 77-17; small towns went for her by 69-24, and she carried suburbs 57-39. Obama won cities 56-38. The rural vote in Kentucky's Democratic primary was 45 percent of the total, mirroring the state's share of rural population, one of the nation's highest. Small towns were 13 percent and suburbs 29 percent. In several rural counties, Clinton won more than 90 percent of the vote. For county-by-county results from Edison Mitofsky Research, click here. CNN analyst and superdelegate Donna Brazile said there were other reasons for Clinton's landslide, such as the fact her husband carried Kentucky twice and campaigned hard for her. Education was also a factor, a key in Obama's win in Oregon, according to a telephone poll conducted there.
CNN analyst David Gergen, who was an aide to Bill Clinton and Republican presidents, said Hillary Clinton should talk to voters directly about the race and Wright issues. He said the Kentucky exit poll "raises the question of whether she should say, 'If you're going to vote against him because he's black, I don't want your vote.' I see no reason why she shouldn't take the high road in the closing days of this campaign." Fellow analyst and former Bill Clinton aide Paul Begala said Wright and Obama's character would be better subjects for Clinton, because it is hard to talk directly about race, especially if the speaker is white. In any event, Begala said, it is more important for Obama to talk about economic issues and transcend race. Another analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, said some pointed Clinton comments about race would bring her long-term political benefit. "She might as well say it," Toobin said, "because it would make a difference."
Don't forget the economy as a factor, NBC News
Political Director Chuck Todd reminds us: "Obama doesn’t have a problem with white working-class voters; he has a problem with white-working class voters in Appalachian states. In Kentucky, just one in five of these folks backed him, but in Oregon nearly half of them did. ... One other thing to keep in mind regarding Clinton's success in Kentucky and West Virginia, and it has to do with the Clinton brand and the economy. These folks in Appalachia have been hit harder by this economy than folks in other parts of the country. And the last time things were looking up was when a Clinton was in the White House. So while there are a lot of folks wanting to think the worst of some of these voters, let's keep in mind: Appalachia and the Rust Belt, more than any other region of the country, are more likely to vote their pocketbook when the economy is in the toilet." (Read more
Dana Milbank of The Washington Post
quotes Bill Clinton going after the media elites: "Every time you turn on the television and listen to one of the people dissing her, they all have a college degree, they've all got a good job, they've all got health care and they're having no trouble filling up their gas tank." Milbank says
the Clintons were offering rhetorical Kool-Aid. As usual, he writes a good read.