Keith Judd, who is serving a 17 1/2-year prison sentence for extortion at the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas, took 41 percent of the vote in West Virginia’s Democratic primary Tuesday night — 72,000 votes to Obama’s 106,000. He would qualify for convention delegates, if anyone had signed up to be a Judd delegate. (No one did.)
How did Judd get so many votes?
It’s likely not his past careers as a superhero and religious leader. Or his passionate FEC report ramblings. Simply put, West Virginia does not like Obama.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state. West Virginia regularly votes in Democratic officials at the state level (its governor and all of its statewide elected officials are Democrats) and narrowly supported Bill Clinton in 1996. But the very rural state has never warmed to the current White House occupant.
“President Obama has no strong political allies in this state. A couple leading Democrats grudgingly support Obama, but say that only when they are asked,” said West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval. “Several are openly hostile to him.”
Obama, not surprisingly, rarely visits the state.
The president angered voters with new Environmental Protection Agency policies, which some see as a “war on coal” and have stalled mining permits for the state’s coal mining industry. Both Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Sen. Joe Manchin, both Democrats, have clashed with Obama on the issue, and neither has committed to supporting him in the fall.
“In talking to many West Virginians, they do recognize and realize that the president is working very hard to help working families across the country and in this state,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio. “It’s just that coal plays such a major role in West Virginia and folks are frustrated with this administration’s position.”
In the latest state-by-state Gallup poll, Obama’s approval rating in West Virginia was 32.7 percent. A recent poll gave former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney a 17-point lead over Obama in the state.
But Obama was unpopular in West Virginia before he took office.
In the 2008 Democratic primary, Obama lost West Virginia to Hillary Clinton by 41 points — even though her campaign was all but over.
In the fall, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) beat Obama in the state by 13 points.
Race likely plays some role here. In the 2008 primary, 2 in 10 white West Virginia voters said race was an important factor in their votes, second only to Mississippi. Those voters went for Clinton 8 in 10 times.
As for how Judd got on the ballot: West Virginia has very liberal ballot laws and Judd is an opportunist. He ran in the Idaho Democratic primary in 2008.
Obama wasn’t likely to win West Virginia’s five electoral votes this fall before last night — and the Judd result confirms he has almost no chance of carrying the state in November.
Potentially more interesting are the results from North Carolina, where 20 percent of Democratic primary voters chose “no preference” over the president. There's a chance more rural Democrats turned out to vote against gay marriage and skewed the results. But Romney didn’t do so well in the battleground state either; he won only 66 percent of Republican primary voters.
Obama also fared poorly in Oklahoma’s primary earlier this year, taking only 57 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry took 18 percent.