Can we officially take West Virginia off the map now for Democrats, and stop pretending it's anything but South Carolina with mountains?
Election night was bad for Democrats all over the country, but arguably there were few states where it was worse for their future — and better for Republicans — than in West Virginia.
Democrats in the state, long accustomed to controlling virtually every part of the government, lost a Senate race and two competitive House races. They secured a majority in the state legislature’s lower house for the first time in eight decades, and after a postelection party switch gave up control of the state Senate as well. Come January, Republicans will hold all of West Virginia’s congressional House seats for the first time since 1921. They even elected the nation’s youngest legislator, 18-year-old Saira Blair, to the state house.
Like Arkansas in 2010, West Virginia seems to have turned a corner from being a Democratic-dominated state to a Republican one. The switch started years ago, when Republican presidential candidates were able to win the state by appealing to its socially conservative voters, regardless of their party affiliation. But in state politics, Republicans struggled to win key offices, or even to field candidates. As recently as 2008, two statewide posts held by Democrats, auditor and treasurer, were uncontested in the general election.
Republicans deserve much of the credit for the current situation: They had a strong, popular candidate for this year’s Senate race, Shelley Moore Capito, who represents the state in the House of Representatives and is the daughter of a former governor. Evan Jenkins, the candidate they fielded against Nick Rahall II, the longtime Democratic congressman from the southern portion of the state, was a former Democrat who represented part of the area in the state Senate.
In addition, Republicans capitalized on an electorate resentful of President Obama’s environmental policies, which have received little support in a state where coal mining has long played a big part in the economy and in politics. Even with an open race for the presidency in two years, it’s doubtful that any Democratic hopeful could sway a large number of voters in state contests.
Let's put this out there right now, kids: Hillary Clinton is not going to magically win West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, or Georgia in 2016, so let's stop pretending the South is in play, other than North Carolina and Virginia.
There's not a state that Obama didn't win in either 2008 or 2012 that Hillary will somehow be able to pull off an upset in. Period. Not happening. Will Hillary get more of the white vote? Yes. It's going to come at the expense of the black vote however, because we remember the games Hillary played in 2007 and 2008. And I think 2014 is proof enough that not every Democrat is going to vote blue just to keep Republicans from winning.