You’ll never guess why Hillary Clinton lost West Virginia when she won it in 2008

Hillary Clinton got spanked in West Virginia by Bernie Sanders. but you will never guess why she lost the state she won in 2008.

West Virginia is one of the most conservative states in the country — so why did its voters support Bernie Sanders, who routinely ranks among the most liberal senators, by a margin of 51 to 36?

The answer has a lot to do with the uniqueness of West Virginia’s political landscape.

After his victory, Sanders said he won West Virginia on the strength of his “anti-establishment” political revolution. Under his interpretation, Sanders’s outsider insurgency has allowed him to scramble the traditional left-right divide and secure the white working class.

Others think this misses a big part of the story. According to the political scientists I interviewed, Sanders may be winning states like West Virginia largely because he’s become an all-purpose vessel for conservative Democrats who think the party has moved too far to their left under Barack Obama.

So the Democrats voted for Bernie Sanders, pretty much a hard left socialist because they perceived him to be further right than Barack Obama!

What’s not up for debate is that Sanders is winning big among Coal Country voters who are registered Democrats but think the party’s leadership has moved too far to the left.

This came through clearly in last night’s exit polls. Asked about Barack Obama’s performance, 39 percent of voters in the West Virginia primary said they thought that Obama was too liberal. These conservative Democrats overwhelmingly backed Sanders by a 62 to 29 percent margin.

But the news for the Democrats gets worse.

Moreover, a huge percentage of Sanders voters in West Virginia — 39 percent — said they were more likely to vote for Donald Trump than the Democratic candidate in a general election.

An analysis from the New York Times’ Nate Cohn drives this home: Throughout the primaries, Sanders has done best in Coal Country counties with large numbers of registered Democrats who also voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election.

At first blush, this seems totally counterintuitive: Why would conservatives planning to support Trump over Clinton also be voting for the Democratic socialist with far more progressive policies than either candidate?

This dynamic may make more sense if you believe voters in West Virginia were really casting a protest vote against the leadership of the Democratic Party, rather than endorsing Sanders’s far-left policy positions.

“There’s clearly a slice of Democratic voters who are alienated from what we would think of now as the national Democratic Party, the Obama-led national party,” says David Hopkins, a political scientist at Boston College.

If Trump can replicate that in other states he will beat Hillary Clinton.


– Vox


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  • RightofSingapore

    In the general, West Viriginia has voted Republican since 2000, Prior to that it was a DemocRAT stronghold, what happened? The Dems went full retard on the global warming scam, West Virginia is a big coal mining state whose economy is quite dependent on coal.

  • Ross15

    Interesting. Shows the pundits continue to underestimate the intelligence of voters ( although in this case they ,being registered party members, are more interested in politics than the average voter).
    I think we will see similar things happening in the Australian election where there are hundreds of thousands of Lib voters who are very anti Turnbull.

  • SaggyNaggy

    West Virginia is quite unique in the United States. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is practically a conservative Republican in all but name. The state is full of “blue-dogs” – registered Democrats who are conservative on most issues. I suspect they are voting Sanders mostly to stymie the presumptive nominee. Remember, Obama actually lost the 2012 primary here, and he wasn’t even running opposed on a national level!

    I expect WV will be one of the first states to be called for Trump in November, but that doesn’t mean Trump will be successful elsewhere.

  • Monty’smate

    Just as there are plenty of socially conservative voters in NZ who dislike John Key’s socially progessive agenda but continue to support him because there is no viable alternative.

  • BG

    It doesn’t surprise at all that those democrates that currently back Sanders will then turn to back Trump. Many feel that the political process in the States is broken. Backing Hillary is backing the same old broken Washington lobbiest money trail.
    Voters wanting to send a message only have two alternatives and the fact that Trump is despised by the GOP loyalists makes it even easier for those Sanders supporters to cross the floor.

    One of the most fascinating elections ever