How Clinton Can Spin West Virginia

A campaign blog.
May 13 2008 8:11 PM

How Clinton Can Spin West Virginia

CNN’s projecting that Hillary Clinton will win West Virginia big time. The question is how, if at all, this can help her. She’s been running out of arguments for weeks. But here are a few ways she can spin today's results:

1) Obama’s coalition is splintering. Clinton’s major argument has been that Obama can’t win working-class white voters, and that he relies on too narrow a coalition. Well, tonight helps her case. Clinton won almost every single demographic normally loyal to Obama. She won all income slices, although less decisively among wealthier voters. She won 54 percent of independents, as well as 59 percent of conservatives. She took college graduates by 57 percent. (She even won voters with postgraduate work, 51-47. Hey now!) And, most surprisingly, she won young voters (age 17-29) with 57 percent. Everyone expected Clinton to win West Virginia because of its demographics—they didn’t expect Obama to slip quite so much among his usual fans.

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2) He’s too vulnerable. It looked like Obama’s campaign disasters—the Rev. Wright, "bitter," the flag pin—didn’t hurt him much in Indiana and North Carolina. In West Virginia, though, they clearly did. Fifty-one percent of voters told pollsters they thought Obama shares Wright’s views. Only 47 percent of voters said Obama shares their values—a pretty clear stand-in for questions of patriotism. Clinton could argue that these voters are the tip of a big, judgmental iceberg of general election voters. If you think Obama’s having trouble now, wait till all the racists come out of the woodwork in November.

3) Economy blues. Consider this: Sixty-four percent of voters named the economy as their top issue. At the same time, a whopping 63 percent said her gas tax holiday proposal was a good idea. That despite almost unanimous opposition to the idea by experts. Clinton can now say she’s got the people on her side. She can also argue that if the economy crashes between now and November, she stands to benefit much more than Obama.

4) It’s not over! According to Fox News, 78 percent of voters think Clinton should stay in the race. That includes a good chunk of Obama supporters. If Clinton needs to persuade superdelegates to hold their tongues until June 3, this is the stat she’ll cite. And right now, buying time is the best thing Clinton can do.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.