It didn’t take long for liberals to start spinning President Obama’s poor showing in two more Democratic presidential primaries last night. As was the case in West Virginia, more than 40 percent of Democrats in Arkansas and Kentucky voted against the president. While the president was spared the humiliation of being nearly bested by a jailed felon (his opponent in West Virginia), an unknown lawyer did as well as the jailbird in Arkansas, while the ever popular “uncommitted” got more than 42 percent in Kentucky. It should be admitted that these are protest votes in contests where the electorate is presented with a done deal. Moreover, President Obama didn’t win any of these states in 2008 and won’t win them this year, so Democrats are entitled to deprecate the results as not having an impact on the outcome. But the willingness of so many members of his party to turn out to vote against him must still be considered a danger sign for the incumbent.
For those seeking rationalizations for Obama’s troubles, Alec MacGillis in the New Republic points out Obama actually did worse than John Kerry did in some counties in these states in 2004. And though they are far less sanguine about the meaning of these numbers than MacGillis, Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake of the Washington Post raise the possibility that white racism is the reason for Obama’s problems. They speculate that some white southerners retain some vestigial loyalty to the Democrats as the party of their ancestors but would still never vote for a black. But as Cillizza and Blake point out, the unrest in Democratic ranks has implications far beyond these three states.