Where Obama has no hope

Humiliating primary results in Kentucky and Arkansas prove that, in some states, Obama-phobia still reigns

Topics: Opening Shot,

There’s a large swath of rural America, extending from somewhere in Oklahoma up into West Virginia, where Barack Obama never had a chance, and it really showed last night.

A majority of Kentucky’s 120 counties voted against Obama in the state’s Democratic presidential primary, opting instead for “uncommitted.” Big margins in Louisville and Lexington saved the president from the supreme embarrassment of actually losing the state, not that his overall 57.9 to 42.1 percent victory is anything to write home about.

In Arkansas, the other state to hold its primary yesterday, the results were only slightly less humbling to Obama, who defeated an actual human-being candidate — a Tennessee lawyer named John Wolfe — by a 58.4 to 41.6 percent spread, with more than a third of the state’s 75 counties siding with the challenger. Wolfe, if anyone asked him, was running against Obama from the left, on a progressive economic message. But to the average Arkansas voter, his name might just as well have been “not Obama”; he had no money, no campaign organization, and no name recognition, and he received scant media coverage.

Whether this qualifies as Obama’s most humbling primary night of 2012 is open to debate. Just two weeks ago, a federal inmate who somehow maneuvered his way onto the West Virginia ballot racked up nearly 41 percent against the president in that state’s primary and carried 10 counties. Back in March, Obama was held to 57 percent in Oklahoma, losing 15 counties to anti-abortion zealot Randall Terry and another gadfly candidate. Terry actually qualified for delegates in that contest, prompting national Democrats to invoke their “LaRouche rule” and deem him unqualified to actually receive delegates.

There were also problems for the president in pockets of Louisiana, where Wolfe cleared the 15 percent delegate eligibility threshold in several congressional districts. Democrats are refusing to actually allocate any delegates to him, though, on the grounds that he failed to file a comprehensive delegate selection plan – a rationale that is also being invoked in Arkansas. Wolfe is vowing to overturn the rulings in court.

In terms of deciding the Democratic nomination, obviously, none of this really matters. Obama has won most states by the massive margins that incumbent presidents typically rack up against fringe challengers and “uncommitted,” and he long ago surpassed the magic number of delegates needed for re-nomination. In most of America, this year’s Democratic primaries have been just as uneventful and unremarkable as they were in 1996, the last time a Democratic incumbent sought reelection.

But then there’s that sea of resistance in Appalachia and states like Arkansas and Oklahoma. A case can be made that Obama’s energy policies contributed to his West Virginia headache, but otherwise there’s no sense trying to pin this on anything he’s actually done as president because the resistance was just as apparent when he ran four years ago.

Back then, Obama was crushed by Hillary Clinton in West Virginia by 41 points – even though it was clear by primary day that he was on his way to being the nominee. In Kentucky, Clinton’s margin was 35 points. In Arkansas (where she served as first lady for more than a decade), it was 44. And in Oklahoma, it was 25. The same largely poor, rural and white areas that gave Clinton her best numbers in 2008 are now doing the same for John Wolfe, “uncommitted” and Randall Terry. The problem was just as apparent for Obama in the fall of 2008, when he improved on John Kerry’s 2004 performance in just about every corner of the country except the Oklahoma-to-West-Virginia swath.

Chalking this up only to race may be an oversimplification, although there was exit poll data in 2008 that indicated it was an explicit factor for a sizable chunk of voters. Perhaps Obama’s race is one of several markers (along with his name, his background, the never-ending Muslim rumors, and his status as the “liberal” candidate in 2008) that low-income white rural voters use to associate him with a national Democratic Party that they believe has been overrun by affluent liberals, feminists, minorities, secularists and gays – people and groups whose interests are being serviced at the expense of their own.

The good news for Obama is that this probably doesn’t say much about what will happen in November. The damage is limited to states he was already expecting to lose to Mitt Romney. Not that this will stop Republicans from playing up Kentucky and Arkansas as the latest proof of Obama’s shattered popularity. But that’s just spin. He could have a 60 percent approval rating, and he’d still be getting embarrassed in these states.

Steve Kornacki

Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon. Reach him by email at SKornacki@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveKornacki

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>