West Virginia from the ground
by Carnacki, Sun May 11, 2008 at 01:28:00 PM EDT
A collection of thoughts as we head into the West Virginia presidential primary on Tuesday.
The caller ID last night showed an 877 number, but I answered it anyway. "I'm a local volunteer for Sen. Hillary Clinton," the caller said. He was polite and asked me if I intended to vote for Senator Clinton in West Virginia's primary on Tuesday.
I told him I liked Senator Clinton a lot, but I liked Senator Obama more. I said we had early voting in West Virginia and I had already voted for him, but wished him luck in his calling.
I meant it.
I wrote a post Thursday at West Virginia Blue:
Whether you want Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton to be our Democratic nominee, go volunteer for your candidate.
As I've mentioned for months, the Obama supporters have been much more active on the ground even though polls have shown Clinton with an insurmountable lead in the state. As Clem has pointed out so well, this state's demographics are perfectly suited for Clinton. But even more than the demographics, this state's personality is suited for her to win. West Virginians love politicians they're familiar with. We had Bill Clinton as our president and Hillary Clinton as our First Lady for eight years.
So for months Obama's supporters here have heard that Obama does not have a chance in West Virginia. That just made his supporters, and there are many of us, work even harder. Damn the overwhelming odds and full speed ahead has been the attitude of many of them. In Berkeley County, 50 of the 52 county delegates elected to attend the state convention were Obama supporters. Similiar efforts have taken place across the state.
The Clinton campaign effort got a late start in West Virginia. And national pundits and experts are calling the race over for her. To Senator Clinton's West Virginia volunteers, as an Obama supporter I urge you not to listen to them. Go out and give it your all for Senator Clinton.
In 2004, many of us worked very hard here in the Eastern Panhandle to GOTV for Sen. John Kerry. We increased his vote by 30 percent over Vice President Al Gore's total here in 2000. And we still had our asses handed to us.
But you know what? I look back in pride to the fact that I did everything I could to make a difference. I've said it before and I'll say it again: every door knocked, every mile walked, every letter sent, every dime spent, I'd do it all over again.
Now go do that for your candidate, whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or even if you're a Republican supporter of Ron Paul. (And someone has planted more Ron Paul signs in this county than for any other candidate - with the exception of Democratic sheriff's candidate Kenny LeMaster.)
We've got plenty of time to come back together as Democrats before the convention in Denver. Primary wounds will heal. But what will be harder to get over is regret. If you want your candidate to win, go do everything you can to make it happen.
It has been since 1960 that West Virginia's vote really mattered in the presidential primary. I do not agree with those calling for Senator Clinton to drop out of the race. While even her most loyal supports admit the odds aren't looking good for Senator Clinton to be the nominee, she has every right to stay in the race and West Virginia will be a high mark for her. Her husband predicted she'll take the state with 80 percent of the vote and who am I to disagree with the benchmark he set? The best and most enthusiastic GOTV in the world is not going to overcome the state's demographics which are perfectly set up for her as Clem so well demonstrated in the post I link to above.
I've got my disagreements with Senator Clinton on some issues and some of her tactics, just as I do with any other candidate, including my absolute favorite in many election cycles. If - the biggest word in the English language - Senator Clinton had locked up the nomination in February as many had expected, I would have happily supported her in the general election. My initial pick was Sen. Chris Dodd. I've got a long history of voting for a candidate in November who was not the candidate I wanted to see there. But I've always voted for the Democrat and considering the Republicans we faced I have no regrets about that choice.
But at least this cycle, West Virginians have felt included in the primary process, which has raised voter registrations to record highs.
We had several volunteers from out of town on Saturday for the Obama campaign. I thought it was a bit confusing the way the setup was today with two "satellite" offices in different neighborhoods. So people who went to the main hq in Martinsburg were sent out to the other two offices to get canvassing materials. The usual people from the campaign we've dealt with were out in Morgan and Jefferson counties working and a new woman was in fresh from North Carolina as part of the reinforcements.
I canvassed Saturday with an older, African American woman. We partnered and did a predominantly African American neighborhood in Martinsburg. It was an interesting experience. I've done African American neighborhoods before for other races, but there was such a -- I can't really think of the right word. Not just a vibe or a sense of excitement. Like a sense of participating in something historic.
After canvassing last week in Precinct 21, a ballbreaker with lots of DINOs, it was good this week to have so many strong Obama supporters. We did have one woman who already voted for Hillary Clinton, but she said she expects Obama to be the nominee and will vote for him in November because she can't stand McCain. (We have early voting or No Excuses voting in West Virginia where you can vote at the court house prior to the election day. The last day for early voting was Saturday.)
Our area also included part of a predominantly white neighborhood as well and we had some Obamas there as well. But possibly more interestingly was a conversation with a man outside his house who was not on our list. I suspect he's an R, but he said he has big money bet on Obama winning the general election and he'll probably vote for him over McCain.
While I'm on the issue of race, let me bring up something that really pisses me off, this false notion that Senator Clinton's supporters are racists. They are not. I'm going to quote Clem extensively because he said it well and I agree with him completely:
It pains me, I feel the need to write this diary... but after reading the coverage of the West Virginia primary around the blogosphere this needs to be said.
When I voted for Barack Obama last week, I was voting for Barack Obama, not against Hillary Clinton and not against John Edwards (also on the W.Va. ballot).
I happen to think Barack Obama will make an even better president than Hillary Clinton. Just because I prefer Obama over Clinton doesn't make make me anti-woman, anti-white people, or anti-anything else. I voted for Obama, it's as simple as that.
So, for the love of God, why do some people insist a West Virginia vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote against Barack Obama? Further, why do so many insist it's a vote against Obama just because of the color of his skin?
Yes, there are some West Virginia Democrats and Independents who will vote in the Democratic primary next week who will vote for McCain in November.
Indeed, the vast percentage of Clinton voters will turn out in November for Obama -- right now they prefer Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. That doesn't make them racist, misandrist, or prejudiced against people from Illinois.
You know, that vote for Hillary Clinton is probably just that: a vote for Hillary Clinton.
The Obama campaign has a new commercial airing in the state, the final one before the May 13 primary. Some of you might not like it, but I think it's really good for its intended West Virginia audience. See it here.
Whatever Senator Clinton decides to do about ending her campaign or continuing - and it is her decision, not the media pundits - West Virginia as one of the last primaries this cycle is going to give her a high note for the finale of her historic presidential bid. Whether she wins by 60 percent or 80 percent and just because it won't matter either way to the overall delegate count, the race continuing has been positive for West Virginia Democrats by increasing our regististration rolls and by preparation for the necessary volunteer effort that will be needed in the summer and fall again Sen. John McCain.
As much as many like to dismiss Senator Clinton, she's a hell of a lot better candidate than Senator McCain can ever hope to be on his best day. A big win by Senator Clinton in West Virginia over Senator Obama does not mean the presumed Democratic nominee cannot carry the state in the general election. Believing that is a discredit not just to West Virginians, but also to Senator Clinton. John McCain is no Hillary Clinton.