Did Some Appalachian Whites Oppose Obama Because of His Race? Yes. Of Course.

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 23 2012 6:01 PM

Did Some Appalachian Whites Oppose Obama Because of His Race? Yes. Of Course.

Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake spend around 1100 words teasing out the uncomfortable questions about Barack Obama's piss-poor Kentucky/Arkansas primary results. Yes, Obama's blackness is probably something that causes a few white voters to shudder. But...

simply labeling the 42 percent of Kentuckians who supported “uncommitted” over Obama or the 41 percent of Arkansas who backed Tennessee lawyer John Wolfe over the incumbent as “racists” is a major oversimplification. Untangling or decoupling how people feel about Obama’s race from how they feel about the policies he has pursued in office and his general beliefs about the size and necessity of government is impossible. No poll or election result can divine voters’ motivations.

Really? No poll? How about the exit polls from Appalachian states that were conducted at the end of the 2008 Democratic primary? In West Virginia:

Screen shot 2012-05-23 at 11.54.57 PM

In Kentucky:

Screen shot 2012-05-23 at 11.56.42 PM

Long before they knew anything about how Obama would govern, or whether he'd make War on Coal, a sizable number of Appalachian whites grabbed anonymous exit poll forms and confirmed that they would vote against the guy because they didn't like his skin color. Hard to calculate, but not impossible.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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