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Exit polls spell out Barack Obama's Kentucky problem

May 20, 2008 |  5:03 pm

Barack Obama, assuming that two consecutive primary thrashings don't cause the pause among Democratic superdelegates Hillary Clinton is hoping for, will get within shouting distance of Kentucky later this year as the party's presidential nominee. The key swing states of Ohio and Missouri border it. So do Virginia and Indiana, which Obama might be able to put in play.

But actually setting foot inside Kentucky would seem a fairly pointless gesture by Obama, unless he's got Clinton in tow as his vice presidential pick. Not only did she follow up her rout of Obama in last Tuesday's primary in nearby West Virginia with an overwhelming win in the Bluegrass State, but exit poll data showed her voters feel none too kindly toward him.

Those figures found that only a third of Clinton supporters would vote for Obama in November, while about 40% would cast their ballot for Republican John McCain and the rest -- roughly a quarter -- would stay home.

Some of those Clinton Democrats who now say they would reject Obama no doubt would reconsider once the heat of their battle cooled. Still, a vast majority of the Clintonites would have to change their minds to give Obama a chance in Kentucky (which President Bush carried with 60% of the vote four years ago) and that seems unlikely to happen.

The exit polls found Obama's backers to be much more forgiving -- seven in 10 said they would be willing to vote for Clinton in November, with the rest roughly split between those who would line up with McCain or simply ignore the presidential race.

-- Don Frederick