Another Barack Obama stumble in the South

Another Barack Obama stumble in the South

May 24th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

President Barack Obama is in Chicago for a NATO summit.

President Barack Obama is in Chicago for a...

If the sense of alienation that many Southerners feel toward President Barack Obama wasn't already clear to the known universe, it became so on Tuesday night.

John Wolfe, a Chattanooga attorney operating on a shoestring budget in seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, took 42 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary in Arkansas, to Obama's 58 percent.

That is scarcely a glowing endorsement of a sitting president.

But Democratic primary voters in Kentucky struck an even more humiliating blow against Obama: He again got 58 percent of their votes -- but "uncommitted" got pretty much all the rest. And the embarrassment arguably was even more intense in the May 8 West Virginia primary, where a man serving time in a federal prison for extortion got 41 percent of the Democratic vote.

While all three states are highly likely to go Republican in the November general election anyway, the obvious lack of confidence that so many of their Democratic voters have for Obama doesn't bode well for the president elsewhere.

Take North Carolina, for instance, which will be the site of the Democratic convention this year. Recall that Obama won the general election vote there in 2008 -- but by only 0.4 percent.

As The Washington Post noted: "[T]here are lots and lots of rural, culturally conservative voters [in North Carolina] who have a fair amount in common with people in Arkansas and Kentucky. (The same goes on Southeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.) ... [Obama] doesn't have much of a margin for error in November in [North Carolina]."

Trouble is, he also doesn't have handfuls of North Carolinas, Ohios and Pennsylvanias that he can lose come November without being consigned to the one-term president bin.

As expected, Democratic leaders are downplaying the strong showing by Wolfe and by "uncommitted" in Arkansas and Kentucky. Party officials in Arkansas went so far as to declare, prior to the primary there, that Wolfe would be denied any delegates no matter how well he did.

"They're treating Obama like a king," Wolfe said in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before the vote. "It's not an election. It's a coronation."

Take heart, Mr. Wolfe: If the negative views of Obama keep growing among Southern and rural voters, it may be neither one.