Hillary Clinton never had a chance at winning the West Virginia primary, not after her March comments about eliminating coal mining, one of the state’s primary economic drivers.
At a town hall she argued that because of her aggressive climate policies, “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Rather than apologize for the remark or explain how her policies could help unemployed coal miners, Clinton fudged the truth and argued that her words were “totally out of context from what I meant.”
“And it was a misstatement, because what I was saying is that the way things are now, we will continue to lose jobs,” Clinton told an out-of-work miner. “I didn’t mean that we’re going to do it, what I said was, that is going to happen unless we take action to try to help and prevent it.”
Nobody bought it. Officials in one West Virginia town, who were contacted about hosting a Hillary Clinton rally, responded with a letter to the governor in which they argued that “Bill and Hillary Clinton are simply not welcome in our town . . . [because her policies] have all but devastated our fair town, and honestly, enough is enough.”
Given Clinton’s statements, and the predictable defensiveness that followed, it’s no surprise that the blue-collar state overwhelmingly voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. But the size of her loss was astounding. She lost each of West Virginia’s 55 counties, a complete 180 degree turn from 2008 when Clinton won every county.
The loss isn’t important from a strictly political perspective. Sure, Sanders can claim to have regained some momentum, but it remains effectively mathematically impossible for Sanders to win enough pledged delegates in the remaining states to capture the nomination (he would need to win 65 percent of all remaining pledged delegates). Yes, there are always super delegates who can, in theory, be swayed to Sanders’ side, but it just isn’t going to happen.
But that shouldn’t give the Clinton camp any sense of confidence. First because it harms her ability to completely focus her energy and money on the general election.
These losses are “absolutely injurious to her political fortunes,” Doug Schoen, a Democrat pollster and former Bill Clinton advisor told the Wall Street Journal. “He hurts her ability to solidify the party and to raise money and to campaign effectively against Donald Trump.”
More importantly, these types of losses suggest that although Clinton is winning the primary race on paper, she’s losing a battle for the hearts and minds of a large swath of Democrat voters. ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
Eight years after winning on her way toward losing the nomination, Hillary Clinton is losing on her way to winning it.
Democrats in West Virginia repeated the message that primary voters have sent with some consistency: They’re not ready to fall in line for Clinton.
That’s a message that could come back in the general election, particularly in economically battered regions and among white, working-class voters who appear particularly loath to see Clinton win the presidency.
Enormous numbers of Democrats are voting for a candidate they know will lose rather than assist in the ascendancy of Clinton. That’s a profound statement of distrust and dislike, and one for which Clinton has no counter. The problem is that her weaknesses are so diverse. The working class doesn’t like her because she’s the product of Wall Street, and is much more comfortable hobnobbing at fundraising galas than touring a West Virginia mine or a Pennsylvania steel mill. Young adults don’t like her because she’s a political weathervane, who simply follows the political winds rather than standing up for something, especially if that something requires significant reform. And independents don’t like her because they don’t trust her, the product of numerous recent scandals ranging from her unwillingness to be forthright about Clinton Foundation donations to her seeming inability to tell the truth about her home-brew email server.
These feelings of dislike and distrust aren’t based on easily-changed policy positions, they are rooted in Clinton’s character and personal history. In that sense, Clinton is going to have a difficult time changing minds, so she’s going to pursue alternative voting blocs. And that means leaving some once-friendly states behind.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore. See more of his work HERE.