And I don't mean negative.
The key to an Obama victory in the primary and the GE now lies nowhere else but in the misty mountains of Appalachia. So strap on your geeek glasses and lets have some fun. We've got work to do.
I am writing this diary out of a desire to see Barack Obama win the primary and general election. There is no doubt that Appalachia is the absolute KEY area to electoral victory for Obama. With the Appalachian vote goes the potential swing of WV, OH, VA, NC, PA and potentially KY and TN depending on the numbers come November.
So far, Obama is under-preforming 44% in Appalachian areas. Tennessee hinted at it (-41), Virginia seconded (-61), and SE Ohio (-31) has made it exceedingly clear. But it can, and will be his.
Dive in with me to see how Obama locks up the primary, and crushes John McCain in the General Election.
Whether you are a 50-stater or a 50%+1 - 3 state advocate, Democrats MUST compete in these areas to win. There is no other way to achieve the Presidency.
We'll break this diary into 5 parts:
- Appalachian Tennessee (TN-01, TN-02, and TN-03)
- Appalachian Virginia (VA-09)
- Appalachian Ohio (OH-06, OH-18)
- Appalachian PA, NC, WV, and KY
- What the Obama campaign should do if it wants to improve its performance in Appalachia
This is not scientific, and if you'd like to make a case for additional districts to be included, I'd love to hear it.
I understand that there is a case to be made by going to counties, but again, this is not meant to be a scientific statistical analysis. I will not use the definition the Appalachian Regional Commssion (ARC) uses, and include everything from MS to NY. I believe that Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia all have terribly different dynamics at play, as does downstate NY. I do think it is significant that the ARC map includes almost ALL of Pennsylvania.
Final TN Results (HC +13)
Appalachian TN Results (HC + 54)
Obama under-performs in Appalachian Tennessee by 41%
COUNTY BO% HC% # VOTES Margin %
Anderson 2558 (34%) 4886 (66%) 7444 (Clinton+32 )
Bledsoe 195(12%) 1399 (88%) 1594 (Clinton+76 )
Blount 3090 (35%) 5717 (65%) 8807 (Clinton+30 )
Bradley 1625 (28%) 4139 (72%) 5764 (Clinton+44 )
Campbell 326 (10%) 2854 (90%) 3180 (Clinton+80 )
Carter 745 (24%) 2366 (76%) 3111 (Clinton+52 )
Clairborne 276 (11%) 2138 (89%) 2414 (Clinton+78 )
Cocke 440 (19%) 1835 (81%) 2275 (Clinton+62)
Grangier 249 (16%) 1341 (84%) 1590 (Clinton+68 )
Greene 1038 (25%) 3181 (75%) 4219 (Clinton+50 )
Hamblen 1094 (25%) 3302 (75%) 4396 (Clinton+50 )
Hancock 56 (19%) 240 (81%) 296 (Clinton+62 )
Hawkins 650 (20%) 2623 (80%) 3273 (Clinton+60 )
Jefferson 775 (24%) 2470 (76%) 3245 (Clinton+52 )
Johnson 214 (26%) 600 (74%) 814 (Clinton+48 )
Loudon 1027 (29%) 2459 (71%) 3486 (Clinton+24 )
McMinn 897 (25%) 2637 (75%) 3534 (Clinton+50 )
Monroe 719 (21%) 2628 (79%) 3347 (Clinton+58 )
Polk 348 (14%) 2154 (86%) 2502 (Clinton+72 )
Rhea 405 (17%) 2026 (83%) 2431 (Clinton+66 )
Roane 1350 (27%) 3733 (73%) 5083 (Clinton+46 )
Sevier 1245 (26%) 3568 (74%) 4813 (Clinton+48 )
Sullivan 2541 (29%) 6162 (71%) 8703 (Clinton+42 )
Unicoi 205 (22%) 736 (78%) 941 (Clinton+56 )
Union 155 (10%) 1322 (90%) 1477 (Clinton+80 )
Washington 3258 (36%) 5731 (64%) 8989 (Clinton+28 )
TOTAL 25,481 (26%) 72,247 (74%) 97728 Clinton +54
Knox 16849 (47%) 19064 (53%) 35913 (Clinton+6 )
Hamilton 19831 (54%) 16562 (46%) 36393 (Obama+8 )
Note – The Percentages only include the Clinton/Obama vote percentages, and does not include Edwards, Dodd, Richardson, or any other candidate. This will, in my opinion, be more likely to pad Obama's percentage than Clinton's. I've also removed Hamilton County and Knox County because of their heavy reliance on the urban areas of Chattanooga and Knoxville, respectively. I'm from rural Hamilton County north of CChattanooga, so I know this part of the country.
The only counties where Clinton won by less than 30% are
- Loudon County - borders Knox County and Knoxville, and includes Lenoir.
- Washington County - Home to East Tennessee State University and Johnson City.
Final VA Results (BO +29)
Appalachian VA Results (HC + 32)
Obama under-performs in Appalachian Virginia by 61%
On Feb. 12, we had our turn at the already enchanting Democratic and Republican primary elections. The rest of February looked good for Obama, and most primaries and caucuses were in states with favorable demographics to the primary coalition of African-Americans, Independents, moderate Democrats, young voters, and upper-income Democrats that Obama had been successful with in Iowa, South Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere. The Clinton coalition relies more heavily on seniors (65+), Latinos, and blue-collar workers. (I think its worth noting that this is an oversimplification on both candidate's behalf.)
After substantial weekend losses in Washington State and Maine, and with upcoming primaries in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, the Clinton campaign was looking at my state of Virginia as a kind of "firewall" state, which she had to do well in.
Virginia has an open primary, which means that you can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries (but not both.)
The demographics across the Commonwealth of Virginia are remarkably mixed.
There are lots of DC commuters in NoVA who lean Democratic but are still unpredictable in a primary because the area is growing so fast.
You have highly African-American Richmond.
You have farming, "piedmont-like" terrain and population in Central Virginia.
You have heavily military coastal areas in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
You have large schools such as UVA (~20,000) and Virginia Tech (~27,000), not to mention University of Richmond, Radford, George Mason, William and Mary, and a slew of other institutions of higher learning.
You also have heavily Appalachian SWVA, which is all contained in the 9th Congressional District, and partially in the 6th. Being an Appalachian political nut, VA-09 is a district I took great interest in watching the returns from.
The campaigns had both had to cancel events in SWVA in the days leading up to the February 12th contests, due to devastating winds and wildfires, which shut down much of I-81 South leading up to the primary. Obama has traditionally outperformed his poll numbers in areas where he is able to campaign and raise his name recognition and profile. Clinton, on the other hand, seems to have the opposite reaction. For instance, for some reason, Hillary Clinton was in Charlottesville on Monday. However, on Tuesday, she only garnered 24% of the vote in Charlottesville. So, in areas where there is no campaigning done, Clinton would be heavily favored because of her name recognition, and close ties (understatement?) to Bill Clinton - still very popular with blue collar workers in the Appalachian part of Virginia.
Well...its no secret primary day in Virginia was a blow-out win for Obama, who took the state by nearly 30 points - 64%-35%.
Virginia allocates a large number of its delegates proportionately, and Obama took each Congressional district by the following margins.
CD-01: Obama-66 Clinton- 34 (Obama +32)
CD-02: Obama-65 Clinton-34 (Obama +31)
CD-03: Obama-80 Clinton-19 (Obama +61)
CD-04: Obama-73 Clinton-27 (Obama +46)
CD-05: Obama-65 Clinton-34 (Obama +31)
CD-06: Obama-54 Clinton-45 (Obama +9)
CD-07: Obama-66 Clinton-33 (Obama +33)
CD-08: Obama-62 Clinton-37 (Obama +25)
CD-10: Obama-60 Clinton-40 (Obama +20)
CD-11: Obama-60 Clinton-40 (Obama +20)
The Appalachian 9th district showed a HUGE 61% difference from Obama's statewide margin. It is a very interesting district, which I think is a great place to dive into the confounding mystery and complex history of Appalachian politics.
The 9th is rated by the Cook Political Report of having a PVI of R+7, which means that the district voted 7% more Republican than the rest of the country in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential election.
However Democrats like Senator Webb, Governor Kaine, and Governor Warner have recently been able to carry several counties in the 9th, as part of their winning statewide coalitions. The 9th district is also represented in Congress by a moderate Democrat - Rick Boucher, who was just re-elected to his 13th term with 68% of the vote.
Boucher, therefore, should have a powerful grip on the Democratic apparatus in the area. In January, Congressman Boucher endorsed Obama, which should have boded well for Obama's chances in that part of the state. However, in the weeks leading up to the primary, Boucher (to my knowledge) did not make many public appearences or statements on Obama's behalf
While the 9th district is heavily Caucasian (93% according to census data), that can not
by itself explain why Obama preformed so poorly here. Iowa Caucus-goers, for instance are 98% white. New Hampshire primary voters are over 95% white. Obama also convincingly won states like Idaho, North Dakota, and Alaska.
The 9th district is highly rural, which would slightly favor Clinton, although not by a lot,judging by Iowa voters' preferences. The 9th is also highly blue collar, at 36%. However, that is only slightly higher than the neighboring 5th district (in which blue collar workers make up 32% of the electorate) where Obama took 65% of the vote. The fifth, however, houses the University of Virginia, and is 24% African American, compared to the 9th's 4% African-American population. The other neighboring district - the 6th, has 11% African American population, and is 29% blue collar workers. Obama also under-performed his state average in this district, carrying it by a margin of 9%. This is strong evidence that geography is in play as much as demographics.
The only noted presence (that I've seen) of Obama organization in the 9th district was in Roanoke. In Roanoke City, Obama won with by a respectable 57-42 margin. Obama, therefore seems to benefit disproportionately over Clinton from two key elements.
- Direct campaigning
- On the ground organization
Obama had a similar lack of organization (to my knowledge) in the 6th as in the 9th, with slightly more favorable demographics in the 6th.
So, Clinton had several things going for her in the 9th district.
- The Caucasian and blue-collar heavy demographics of the 9th district should have boded well for her.
- The fact that there was no direct campaigning by either candidate (although Bill Clinton did visit SWVA) benefits Hillary Clinton, who has a higher profile.
- There was little on-the-ground campaign or GOTV organization in those districts, which should favor Clinton.
However, none of these differences - singularly or together - should presuppose the giant 61% difference in results on behalf of Clinton.
I need some help with this area, as I have almost no experience in this area of the country.
Final OH Results (HC +10)
Appalachian OH Results (HC +42)
Obama under-performs in Appalachian Ohio by 31%
Obama performs slightly higher in OH than VA and TN because there was substantial campaigning done in OH.
In OH-06, Hillary took 66% of the vote in, and in OH-18 Hillary took 70% of the vote in. I still don't really understand Ohio as kos says, even on a "gut level." But both of these districts are represented by two Freshmen Democrats who have NOT endorsed a candidate according to the Hill. OH-06 is represented by Charlie Wilson, and OH-18 is represented by Zack Space.
Historically, many of these areas have a strong Democratic presence due to the long history a history of working-class labor battles. I can not imagine that the income brackets favor Republicans either.
If you have more insight into SE Ohio, please share in the comments.
The most pressing state...PA
The Appalachian Regional Commission includes almost all of western and central PA in its definition of "Appalachia."
Recent polls show Obama competitive in PA. All polls taken in the last 2 weeks show him within single digits. However, Hillary has blunted his momentum, will continue to throw the kitchen sink at him. To win this state Barack Obama will need every single vote he can get.
Obama also leads most primary polls in NC, where the population is buoyed by the central and eastern parts of the state. Now, NC has 15 electoral votes - as many as New Jersey. I will be the first to say that Obama can and WILL compete with McCain in North Carolina. Dems control the Governorship, have a majority in the Congressional delegation, and recently expanded our Dem majorities in the State House and State Senate.
In WV, polling from 2 weeks ago shows a commanding 43-22 lead for Hillary Clinton. WV is quintessential Appalachia.
I have not seen any data for Kentucky.
I want to first include Ohiobama's quote, the inspiration for this post, in its entirety. Emphasis mine.
Realizing the strategic error made in Ohio, go to rural Appalachian Pennsylvania FIRST. Do small town meetings in Appalachian towns BEFORE you do big rallies in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Visit with poor mountain families and coal miners. Show those people you are about them. Forget all national issues for a few days and talk about local issues. Find out what those communities want and speak to those wants. Don't send Oprah or Michelle to those areas; send George Clooney and John Edwards if you can get him. Don't jet around. Take bus tours with multiple stops in small towns. Pay attention to local history. Visit historic sites. Recruit new voters from the hollows as well as from college campuses. In fact, avoid the college campuses, they stigmatize you. Go out of order to the electoral calendar, visiting border areas of West Virginia when you are nearby. Prepare for North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia as you campaign in Pennsylvania. Issue a position paper on Appalachian regional issues. Hold an Appalachian summit that includes people from the parts of Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee where you already lost. Don't listen to national strategists. Bring in a group of Appalachian community organizers to advise you from organizations like the UMWA, Highlander Center, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, and Southern Ohio Neighbors Group. Visit the same Appalachian towns that JFK did in the 1960 campaign. Show some humility and willingness to learn. Pray at very small churches, a lot. Say the words "New York" in connection to Hillary Clinton as often as you can. Make HER the urban outsider who doesn't understand. Show you're neither afraid to slam the Democratic political machine, nor afraid to take a walk in the woods.
Appalachia is the epitome of racial mixture in America. The people are of mixed Euro-American, African American, and Native American stock. It is natural turf for Barack Obama.
My suggestions are as follows:
A) Go There
Go to small towns like Sylvester, Dorothy, Whitesville, and Blair Mountain (site of the biggest labor battle in American History!)
B) Come out with a strong-position against strip-mining and mountaintop removal. Say you'll stop the dumping of coal waste into our water on Day 1.
For those who don't know, over 1 million acres of Appalachia have been recklessly bombed away by coal companies seeking to reduce their labor force. Over 474 mountains have been lost, entire communities destroyed, and economies suffocated as 90% of coal jobs are lost. 1700 miles of headwater streams that feed the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and Mississippi River have been buried and poisoned
C) COAL IS OVER. Work with industry and local people to make Appalachia the renewable energy center of the country.
Providing America's power is a source of immense pride to the people in Appalachia. However, we have 10-20 years of coal left in Appalachia, and we need to work to make renewable energy the economic engine of 21st century Appalachia. Help us make wind towers. Incentivise solar, and wind, and biomass, and micro-hydro power.
D) Finish what FDR, JFK, and RFK started
Address endemic Appalachian poverty aggressively. (You might even pick up a few key endorsements).Appalachia has some of the highest poverty rates in the country. A lot of that has to do with the mono-economy of coal. Encourage tourism. Encourage local businesses.
...lifting straight from Ohiobama
E) Issue a position paper on Appalachian regional issues.
Poverty, religion, coal/energy, tourism.
F) Show you're neither afraid to slam the Democratic political machine, nor afraid to take a walk in the woods.
This one will be tough. The Democratic machine in WV is not kind, and is deeply in the pocket of coal. This is exactly why we are so poor.
G) Wear a flag (not just a lapel) :)...and talk shit about George Bush.
DC has done Appalachia NO favors. Bush actually made it easier for coal companies to dump poisonous mine wastes in our streams, 1700+ miles of which have already been buried and polluted by mountaintop removal. The Democratic history with labor and working class issues is strong here.
H) KEEP COMING BACK
You will need at least WV (5 EVs) and PA (21 EVs) to beat McCain. Having OH (20EVs), NC (15 EVs), and VA (13 EVs) while adding TN (11) and KY (8) to the mix will only help get you the 50%+ that Democrats have been working on for so long.
This is where the 50-state strategy brings you.
We look forward to seeing a Presidential candidate who stands with us and not the coal company CEOs.
We look forward to working with you.
And we look forward to helping you to a crushing win in Novermber.
Part 6: What Appalachia is and is not
The most beautiful place in the world.
Rich in cultural history.
(has...) a deeply divided political history, but one that shows a inner-conflict on race that is at once both progressive and "inexperienced" with racial diversity.
Appalachia is not...
A resource colony for the US.
A national sacrifice zone.
I think that the strongest thing you can pull from all this political data is this fact: It is more than simple demographics that sets Appalachia apart from the lowland south. The Appalachian political system is a distinct one. It is more complex than that of the "solid" south, and entirely more unique (and mysterious) than it is given credit for.
I will be very interested to see how the breakdowns are in Appalachian Kentucky(5-20), Appalachian Pennsylvania (4-22), and West Virginia (5-13).
I welcome your thoughts, corrections, and suggestions.
Three cheers for constructive dialog!
Full disclosure: I support, and have given money to Barack Obama, though I'll do my best to make the analysis here as objective as possible. I could write whole books on this wonderful enigma we call Appalachia.
- The issue of race keeps coming up. I don't have an answer other than what I gave in this post. But I want to say that I am very glad we are discussing it.
- If folks think I am over-stating the immensity of destruction from mountainop removal mining in Appalachia, Im not.
Southern WV, Southwest VA, Western KY, and should include north Central TN.
Please visit Appalachian Voices and iLoveMountains.org to learn more about mountaintop removal to learn more about what you can do to stop it. Including asking your Congressman to co-sponsor the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 2169).
And THANK YOU everyone for the great feedback, constructive criticism, and thoughtful conversation. Its awfully refreshing. :)