A Fix review of the 16 states in which voters have been given an alternative to Obama on the Democratic primary ballot — whether it be an actual candidate, a write-in, or simply “uncommitted” — shows that Obama is averaging 84.6 percent of the vote.
In the five states where there was an actual named opponent, though, Obama’s share of the vote is considerably lower: 72.7 percent.
The phenomenon, as you might guess, is much more pronounced in the South and Appalachia, where Obama is averaging 74 percent of the vote in the six states that have offered an Obama alternative so far.
In the other 10 states, Obama is averaging a much higher number: 91 percent.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a potential problem going forward.
Obama, as we’ve noted before, has performed especially poorly in West Virginia and Oklahoma, where he took less than 60 percent of the vote. (His top opponent in West Virginia was a federal inmate in Texas, while in Oklahoma it was an anti-abortion rights activist). Obama also took just 77 percent in Louisiana, where several other candidates split up the vote.
In the same vein, the Arkansas and Kentucky primaries tonight are likely to include significant numbers of Democrats spurning the president. In the former, Obama faces a one-on-one contest against attorney John Wolfe , while in the latter, he faces the “uncommitted” option.
It’s easy to dismiss the anti-Obama Democratic vote, then, as largely relegated to states that Obama was going to lose anyway. But that’s not necessarily the case, either.
In a wholly non-competitive Democratic primary in New Hampshire in January, a smattering of candidates took 18 percent of the Democratic primary vote, including 10 percent who chose to write in a candidate rather than vote for Obama. This despite the fact that independents were free to vote in the much more competitive Republican primary.
Similarly, earlier this month in North Carolina, which like New Hampshire is a state the president is counting on to help him win a second term, more than 20 percent of Democratic primary voters chose the “uncommitted” option over Obama.
Among the other states, between 11 and 14 percent of voters in Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and Tennessee registered no candidate preference rather than vote for Obama. And in Missouri, 12 percent voted for other candidates or “uncommitted.”
Obama only gave away a few percentage points in Oregon and Vermont, where a write-in candidate was the only alternative, and he also did relatively well in Wisconsin, where the alternative is listed as “uninstructed delegation” (whatever that means). Obama took 98 percent in the Badger State primary.
Those three states and the District of Columbia, where Obama beat “uncommitted” 98 percent to 2 percent, help to drive up his primary average significantly.
In a lot of these states, though, the votes are noteworthy because the ballot didn’t include any other races besides the presidential primary. In 10 of these states, people showed up solely to vote for president and essentially cast protest votes. (Obama also averaged 85 percent in these states.)
That trend might betray some enthusiasm problems for Obama in states that matter like New Hampshire and North Carolina. But in the states where the anti-Obama Democratic vote is really pronounced — including potentially Arkansas and Kentucky today — don’t read too much into it.