Monday, May 19, 2008


Add a shot of whiskey and a pinch of tobacco and, politically, Kentucky is a lot like neighboring West Virginia -- Clinton country.

Both states are overwhelmingly white, largely rural and have a greater share of residents below the poverty line and without college degrees than the nation as whole.

And, as she did in West Virginia, Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to rack up a sizable victory in Kentucky's May 20 Democratic primary against Barack Obama, who is hoping to counter with a win on more favorable turf in Oregon the same day.

Whites have favored Clinton over Obama by 55 percent to 40 percent, rural voters 51-43, and voters without college degrees 52-44.

A record 2.8 million Kentuckians are registered to vote in the primary election. Of those, 1.6 million are Democrats. And, despite the close presidential primary, the number of new registered voters hasn't skyrocketed. In the past six months, 16,000 people have registered, 13,000 of them as Democrats.

Records from the Kentucky Board of Elections show that 53 percent of the state's registered voters are women, a demographic that has played in Clinton's favor in other states. Kentucky doesn't track party registrants by race, but blacks make up only 7.4 percent of the state's population compared with 12.4 percent nationally -- a far smaller minority voting bloc than in other Southern states carried by Obama.

And Kentucky voters are slightly older than voters nationally, another advantage for Clinton.

Both Obama and Clinton have rallied environmentally-minded voters in other states with their promises to develop windmills, solar power and other renewable energy sources and order mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases from power plants to counter global warming.

Kentucky voters are interested largely in the same issues as their counterparts across the country - the economy, fuel prices, health care and Iraq.

Kentuckians struggle with joblessness, especially in the impoverished mountain communities in the eastern half of the state.

Clinton's support among churchgoers in other states bodes well for her in Kentucky. Clinton has done especially well among Catholic voters, which, could help her offset Obama's support among blacks in Louisville, one of the state's strongest Catholic communities.

One of the things that make Kentucky politics exciting, is it's unpredictability!