“I find it difficult to believe that Biden and the president just haven’t had a conversation about this.”
-- Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., talking to The Hill about Vice President Joe Biden’s newly expressed support for same-sex marriage.
The good news for President Obama is that he more than doubled his 2008 primary showing in West Virginia when Hillary Clinton trounced him 67 percent to 26 percent and carried all of the state’s 55 counties.
The bad news for Obama is that Keith Judd, Inmate No. 11593-051, serving a 210-month sentence at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas, also outperformed the president’s 2008 West Virginia primary showing.
Judd, who lists himself as a “Rastafarian-Christian” and his career as “Founder, World Peace Through Musical Communications Skills,” took 41 percent of the vote among West Virginia Democrats and carried 10 counties.
Power Play knows something about West Virginia politics and can assert without fear of correction that Judd did not carry Clay County because of a large “Rastafarian-Christian” population. And while Logan County has voted for a felon or two before, it’s not usually considered a positive attribute unto itself.
This was about hardening resentment against Obama on the state’s top economic issue – Obama’s mounting restrictions on the mining and burning of coal – as well as a general sense among blue-collar, socially conservative Democrats that there isn’t a place for them in Obama’s party.
Sen. Joe Manchin, who is pro-coal, pro-life and anti-gay marriage, has said he might not vote for Obama in November. Tuesday’s results suggest that there was little political downside. Though Manchin doesn’t face a competitive race this fall, a strong showing by Obama in the Mountain State might have given the senator pause.
As for the state’s Democrats facing competitive races, like Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, Judd-mentum cannot be happy news. The same is true for Democrats in similar states, especially Kentucky, and those that contain swaths of the Jacksonian-minded Hillbilly Firewall, like Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Tuesday’s showing makes Judd, technically, the most successful primary opponent to Obama this year and should earn him at least one delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September.
In Charlotte on Tuesday, a similar narrative was playing out as voters statewide approved a stringent ban on same-sex marriage 61 percent to 39 percent. A minimum of 35 percent of the 958,418 Democratic voters in the state voted for the constitutional amendment. The share is probably considerably higher since some number of Republicans no doubt voted against the amendment.
Team Obama is groping for a way to mollify gay activists demanding the president abandon his coy stance on same-sex marriage – Obama is said to be “evolving” on the subject – and paint Republican Mitt Romney as a bigot to the socially moderate suburban swing voters who are key to Romney’s hopes.
The vice president and two cabinet secretaries have come out for gay marriage, while the president continues to express his support for “equality” but withholding his final evolutionary leap forward, one presumes, until after Election Day.
But the effort has so far been botched. Not only are gay activists demanding that the president stop the cynical shenanigans and say what he thinks, but it has left the White House press secretary sputtering day after day in an effort to explain Obama’s stance. Meantime, Romney has not taken the bait and has not yet been forced to expound on the subject of his opposition to gay marriage. (Romney and Obama on paper have much the same view on the subject, but Romney is expected to abide in his stance.)
We know that 21 percent of North Carolina Democrats opted for “no preference” over Obama. This tells us that while many of the gay-marriage foes in the North Carolina Democratic Party will likely still back Obama – especially the large population of devoutly Christian black voters – there are many North Carolina Democrats up for grabs this fall and some who are already lost to the president.
Obama has made a big deal out of holding on to North Carolina in November – even holding his party’s convention in Charlotte. That is starting to look a lot like the Republican’s decision to head to Minnesota for their convention in 2008: Wishful thinking.
The conventional wisdom in the political press held that the presidential story to watch in Tuesday’s primaries in West Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina was the size of the protest vote against moderate Romney in a trio of states with large conservative populations.
Romney did fine. He scored between 65 percent and 70 percent of the vote in all three states and is now just a little more than 100 delegates away from officially clinching the nomination. Most tellingly, Romney fared well in Indiana where moderate, six-term, Republican Sen. Richard Lugar got bounced out by voters in favor state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Romney did better than Mourdock, which was no guarantee considering the enthusiasm of the Republican base and the anti-establishment anger running the Indiana’s Republican electorate. Romney ran ahead of libertarian leaning Texas Rep. Ron Paul by 50 points in Indiana, a strong sign that the GOP is, for now, coalescing behind Romney and his message of economic liberty and fiscal austerity.
The real story turned out to be that Obama still has big problems where he's had them all along: moderate, blue-collar Democrats.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“I'm not sure that there is anything [Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.] could have done differently in campaigning. He is who he is after all of these years. His generation of the sort of somewhat right-of-center Republicans is an eclipse."
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.