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