By Tom Blumer | Special to Ohio Watchdog
In case you’ve missed it — and it would be understandable if you have, given that the press has given the news little attention — incumbent President Barack Obama, who has no credible Democratic Party challenger, got less than 60 percent of the vote in the West Virginia primary a few weeks ago. His opponent, a convicted felon named Keith Judd who is currently serving time in Texas, received 40.7 percent of the vote.
On Tuesday in Kentucky’s primary, Obama again failed to garner 60% of the vote, this time against nobody. Literally. Just over 42 percent of the Bluegrass State’s Democratic Primary voters cast their ballots as “uncommitted.” 67 of the state’s 120 counties gave majorities to “uncommitted.” By comparison, the last three times an incumbent president ran virtually unopposed in his party’s primary in Kentucky, “uncommitted” took 7.5 percent, 17 percent, and 25 percent of the vote in 2004, 1996, and 1992, respectively.
The 1992 result indicated that George H. W. Bush was indeed vulnerable to a centrist-posing general election challenge from someone like Bill Clinton. Bush lost the general election. The “uncommitted” percentage of Democrats effectively voting against Obama should be seen as even more troubling to his supporters than the figurative warning shot fired at Bush in 1992.
That there is a significant pocket of opposition to Obama’s reelection coming from mainstream Democrats in two states which happen to be on Ohio’s border is beyond dispute. Particularly sticking in their craw are Environmental Protection Agency rules which are shutting down coal-fired power plants, seem destined to send the coal industry into oblivion, and are needlessly stifling the growth of hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.”
These factors are also at work in the Buckeye State. First Energy is closing several Ohio coal-driven power plants between now and 2015. According to the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, the EPA’s foot-dragging in granting coal-mining permits is putting over 1,800 coal-mining jobs at risk. The agency is seemingly doing everything it can to slow down fracking in the state.
These regulator-driven closures and roadblocks aren’t just academic exercises in how to create a pristine world which never existed. They are negatively affecting people’s lives. As of March, unemployment rates of 8.5 percent and higher abounded throughout the rural and Appalachian areas of eastern, southeastern, and southern Ohio. Eleven counties still have rates above 10 percent.
“… these states are considered deep red for 2012, but the demographics of Jacksonian white working-class voters in these states aren’t culturally all that different from voters in large swaths of swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and even northern Florida.”
Of the states Geraghty identified, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where fights over fracking have been especially intense, are still seen as leaning towards Obama in November. The Keystone State, where Obama scored a 600.000-vote victory in 2008, is likely still in Obama’s camp. (If Obama can’t win Pennsylvania, turn out the lights, because the presidential race is over.)
But Obama won Ohio that year by only 262,000 votes out of 5.6 million ballots cast. In my view, Ohio is leaning Republican in the presidential contest, though probably not by much. General dissatisfaction with Obama’s record throughout the state, combined with vehement opposition from blue-collar workers and their families who often support Democrats but can’t abide the administration’s regulators gone wild, mean that Obama, contrary to current conventional wisdom, faces an uphill climb here.