Huckabee wins West Virginia
It's no small thing that the Clintons have beaten Barack Obama by a big margin, 67% to 26%, in yesterday's West Virginia primary, but if losing West Virginia means danger in the general election, John McCain has at least as much to worry about as Obama.
West Virginia is one of those quirky states where the Democrats and Republicans follow different procedures for choosing their party's presidential nominee. As the New York Times website shows, West Virginia held a Republican caucus on February 5 and a Republican primary yesterday. The results deserve our attention.
In yesterday's Republican primary, which determined nine pledged delegates, McCain won 76% of the vote. That means that in a completely uncompetitive primary, 24% of Republican primary voters showed up just to vote against their party's presumptive nominee. (I noted the same trend last week in Indiana and North Carolina.)
But in the February 5 Republican caucus, when McCain faced active competition with eighteen delegates at stake, the results were staggering. These are the vote totals of the delegates at the state convention, as shown by the New York Times:
Some readers may say that it is a cheap parlor trick to compare Obama's 26% in the West Virginia primary to McCain's 1.1% in the same state's caucus. And maybe it is. The better comparison may be to the Republican primary in Utah, a reliably Republican state where one candidate, Mitt Romney, was favored by voters from the start. In Utah's February 5 primary, McCain got 5.4% of the vote to Romney's 89.5%. Does this mean that, having lost Utah so dramatically, McCain cannot hope to carry it in November? Certainly not. And neither does the Clintons' lopsided victory in West Virginia rule it out for Obama. Keep these facts in mind when you hear all the silly talk about Obama's 'electability'.
So that's what Obama's big defeat in West Virginia doesn't mean. As for what it does mean, your guess is as good as mine.