As West Virginia goes…?

It sounds like Hillary Clinton is on her way to winning the West Virginia primary by something approaching a 30 percentage point margin. As I’ve said before, the fact that voters in a given Democratic primary favor Clinton over Obama doesn’t mean that many of them will favor McCain over Obama; nor should we assume that Clinton voters who say they’ll vote for McCain will actually follow through.

Nonetheless, the margin in the West Virginia primary suggests real resistance to Obama among Democrats in that state. Now, Obama doesn’t need to win West Virginia in November any more than he needs to win Kentucky, where he’s scheduled to be trounced next week. But there are many Democratic voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania who fit the West Virginia and/or Kentucky profile. Obama may need to do reasonably well with such voters to carry these two crucial states.

Democratic superdelegates probably believe the risk that Obama won’t do well enough with white rural and working class voters to win in Pennsylvania and Ohio is smaller than the risk that a great many black voters will stay at home if the Democrats nominate Clinton. These superdelegates may be right. But that doesn’t mean the risk associated with nominating Obama isn’t quite real.

UPDATE: In the end, Clinton’s lead approached 40 percent. The analysis remains the same only more so.

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