Clinton’s Hollow But Ominous Victory in West Virginia

clinton
"Good evening, white people…" Photo: Getty Images

Hillary Clinton didn't just beat Barack Obama last night in West Virginia — she walloped him by a 41-point margin. She won every age group, income level, ideological stripe, and gender. (She probably didn't win black people, but there aren't really any black people in West Virginia, so that doesn't count.) At the same time, those who believe in math have already decided that Clinton can't win the nomination, so last night's victory may not matter beyond boosting Clinton's pride. Obama, though, has still clearly not connected with white, working-class voters, despite drinking many beers. If he really is the nominee, as still seems likely, he may be facing some daunting challenges.

• Ben Smith says the results make it clear that Obama will have to look beyond the Rust Belt to win in November, and target more educated whites in the North and West. [Politico]

• Byron York says the landslide victory and the strength of Clinton's continued support is evidence of just how divided the Democratic Party has become. Like Ben Smith, he notes that Obama will have to win the White House in a "brand new way," a task which is certainly making some people nervous. [National Review]

• Adam Nagourney writes that it's debatable whether West Virginia's results spell trouble for Obama in the fall. For one thing, the state isn't at all reflective of the country as a whole, and the political climate is squarely against the Republicans this year. At the same time, Obama's struggle to win over working-class whites could define his general-election campaign. [NYT]

• Andrew Romano says worries about Obama's support among white, working-class voters are more justified than ever. Of course, the superdelegates already knew that Obama had trouble with this group, so this isn't new to them and won't change their minds. [Stumper/Newsweek]

• Vaughn Ververs points out a few reasons not to draw any big-picture conclusions from West Virginia: The demographics could not have been better for Clinton, her family name is well liked there, and Obama offered only token campaigning in the state. Of course, while his nomination appears to be safe, Obama's trouble in West Virginia and elsewhere "can’t be comforting for him or his party." [Horserace/CBS News]

• Craig Crawford thinks last night's results "should give pause" to superdelegates but doesn't expect it to. Liberals are placing another bet, as they did in 1972 with George McGovern, that the country has moved leftward. [CQ Politics]

• Matthew Yglesias gently mocks the idea that because no Democrat has won the White House without West Virginia since 1916, Obama is doomed without the state. [Atlantic]

• John Dickerson doesn't think Obama's problems with white, working-class voters will necessarily carry over into the general election. Polls show Obama and Clinton running about even with the demographic against McCain, and others show Obama doing better than Democrats have in the past. His trouble with this group might become more of a governing problem (how can he build his promised coalitions?) than an electoral problem. [Slate]

• Jim Geraghty thinks the superdelegates "should be sweating" because groups that have been the "backbone of the party for generations" just aren't warming up to Obama. [Campaign Spot/National Review]

• Chris Cillizza, in consultation with an array of Democratic operatives, suggests a few things Obama should do to shore up his shaky support in the general, including continuous, frequent visits to Ohio and Pennsylvania to answer questions about his religion, patriotism, etc. [Fix/WP] —Dan Amira

Related: Ten Thought Experiments Exploring the Possibility of Hillary Clinton, Nominee [NYM]

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.