(Cross-posted from Daily Kos)

After last week’s primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, the media narrative shifted dramatically against Hillary Clinton. She lost big in North Carolina and barely held off Barack Obama in Indiana. Not even a week later, and she lost her long-standing lead in superdelegates as well. That being said, tomorrow’s primary in West Virginia is going to be a blowout for Clinton. Both Clinton and her husband have toured the state fairly extensively, while Obama has made only 3 stops in-state (he visited Beckley and Charleston in March, and he came back to Charleston again today). The polling averages show Clinton leading Obama between 30-40 points, which is likely where the final result will be.

While many folks are worried that an extremely bad result affecting Obama’s chances tomorrow, the truth is that Clinton will recoup roughly half of the superdelegates that Obama has netted during the past week. It’s going to be his second-worst loss after Arkansas, but the math isn’t fungible at this point such that the media narrative will flip against him.
West Virginia primary (May 13th, 28 pledged delegates)

Simply put, West Virginia personifies Appalachia, and it’s easily the area where Obama has performed the worst throughout this campaign. If one looks at the Appalachian counties in northeastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, southeastern Ohio, western Virginia, or southwestern Pennsylvania (check out CNN’s interactive county maps here), Clinton often receives close to, or more than, 70% of the vote. Given that all of West Virginia, perhaps excepting the very eastern portion of the state, falls within this region, one has to expect Obama to lose by an exceedingly large margin. His campaign has done a good job of dampening expectations of the state’s results, but if there is large turnout, it will give new life to the facetious argument based on the popular vote that is the Clinton campaign’s only metric that they can twist the numbers to favor them. Despite the endorsements of Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Nick Rahall, a good day for Obama would be to keep the margin of victory under 30% – which will happen only if Obama’s GOTV machine is extremely effective.

WV-01: 6 delegates

Clinton will easily clear the 58.5% hurdle needed to get 4 delegates out of the state, but will she get to 75% to get a 5-1 split? I don’t think so. While she surpassed the hurdle in Greene and Fayette Counties in Pennsylvania, Clinton doesn’t break 75% in any of the other bordering counties. While I do believe that Clinton may get within shouting distance of 75%, it’ll be hard for her to make it over that high barrier.

Allocation of CD-01 delegates
Hillary Clinton: 4 pledged delegates
Barack Obama: 2 pledged delegates

WV-02: 6 delegates

This will likely be the district in which Obama performs the best from a popular vote standpoint. I still feel that Clinton should clear the 58.5% hurdle easily, but she won’t come close to the 75% marker. Given that Obama should perform relatively (and I do mean relatively) well in Charleston and the eastern tip of the state, which is effectively suburbs/exurbs of Washington, D.C., there should be no worries about Obama doing any worse than a 4-2 split in favor of Clinton.

Allocation of CD-02 delegates
Hillary Clinton: 4 pledged delegates
Barack Obama: 2 pledged delegates

WV-03: 6 delegates

There’s no question that Obama is going to get smoked in this district, despite Rep. Rahall’s endorsement. In this instance, I do believe that Clinton will rack up more than 75% of the vote, leading to a 5-1 split in her favor. The bordering Ohio counties gave her 77-78% of the vote, while the Virginia counties that border the district gave her as much as 90% of the vote (although some counties that border the district further north ‘only’ voted for her by margins of roughly 30-40 percent). Obama has visited Beckley once, but it was a long time ago and will likely not be enough to keep him above 25%.

Allocation of CD-03 delegates
Hillary Clinton: 5 pledged delegates
Barack Obama: 1 pledged delegate

At-Large Delegates (7 delegates) and Pledged PLEO Delegates (3 delegates)

Thankfully for Obama, regardless of how badly he gets blown out, the delegate splits from the at-large and pledged PLEO delegates are almost certainly to be 5-2 and 2-1 in favor of Clinton, respectively. If Obama massively outperforms expectations (again, remember this is relatively speaking), he may get the a 4-3 at-large split if he holds Clinton below 64.3% of the popular vote. Clinton gets a 6-1 at-large split if she nets more than 78.57% of the vote, but no polls in West Virginia so far have shown Obama with that little support, so it makes it highly unlikely to happen. Given the sparse polling that has been done, I’m going to simply going to gross up and average the best result for Obama (Rasmussen’s latest poll showing Clinton up 56-27) and the worst (ARG showing Clinton up 66-23 – I know they’re a bad polling outfit, but you work with what you have) to give Clinton 70.8% of the popular vote to Obama’s 29.2%.

Allocation of at-large delegates
Hillary Clinton: 5 pledged delegates
Barack Obama: 2 pledged delegates

Allocation of pledged PLEO delegates
Hillary Clinton: 2 pledged delegates
Barack Obama: 1 pledged delegate


In my calculations, Hillary Clinton will come away from the state with 20 pledged delegates, while Barack Obama will capture 8 pledged delegates. Obama will undoubtedly receive some bad press over his impending blowout loss, and I’m sure the Clinton campaign will dutifully send Howard Wolfson and company out to tell us that Obama simply can’t win working-class white voters. That being said, Obama doesn’t have a chance of winning the state; there are too many historical and cultural barriers that don’t really give him a fighting chance to begin with. That being said, it’s hard for him to do any worse than he is currently projected to do.

Best-case scenario for Obama

Simply put, Obama has to outperform by a healthy margin to narrow the delegate loss he faces in the state. However, if he is able to perform better-than-expected in WV-02 to earn a 3-3 split (similar to how NC-11 turned out) and can get more than 25% in WV-03 to only lose 2 delegates, he will pick up 2 more delegates. Additionally, if the activist base really turns out and boosts Obama above 35.6% of the vote, he will net an extra at-large delegate. This would lead to Obama only netting a loss of 6 delegates, 17-11.

Worst-case scenario for Obama

It’s hard to do worse than I’ve already projected, but WV-01 could possibly go to Clinton for a 5-1 split if she breaks 75%. She will probably get within 5% – I can see her scoring in the low-70% range easily – but if she couldn’t do it on a consistent basis in the bordering counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania, I don’t see it happening here. That’s really the only area of improvement I see, and that would lead to a 21-7 delegate split in favor of Clinton. As I noted above, netting an extra at-large delegate with more than 78.57% of the vote is extremely likely. One has to consider that Obama’s polling – which puts him somewhere in the mid- to high-20% range – is his floor. If his supporters in West Virginia stuck with him through the tough times he faced the past few weeks, I can’t see him losing support at the polls.

All in all, Clinton will score a big victory and will try to use it as evidence that she is the best choice to retain working-class white voters. What it won’t change is the math – namely, that there are only 5 more contests (Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota) left, with a combined 189 pledged delegates. With Obama’s superdelegate likely to increase exponentially in the next couple of weeks, there is simply no daylight for the Clinton campaign to plausibly lay claim to any path to the nomination – even with Florida and Michigan included at this point. West Virginia will vote tomorrow for Hillary Clinton, but it’s too little, too late at this point.

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