New Yorker dissects Appalachian votes

Brent Finnegan -- September 30th, 2008

The New Yorker just published a feature about Barack Obama’s “Appalachian Problem” in rural Virginia. Writer Peter Boyer spoke with John Edwards’ former political strategist, Mudcat Saunders, who compared and contrasted rural Virginia voters’ perceptions of Barack Obama with “NASCAR Dems” like Warner, Webb and Edwards.

If John Edwards were the nominee, he would certainly be pounding home the greed message. That message, Saunders said, “would be beatin’ the hell outta John McCain right now.” […] It is advice that the Obama campaign is hearing quite a lot, and by last week Obama was warning against a “welfare program for Wall Street,” and reproaching finance-industry executives for “greed and irresponsibility.”

Boyer also asked Jim Webb what Obama has to do to win in Republican strongholds like the Shenandoah Valley.

“The challenge for Barack is to create an identity,” Webb said. Like Mudcat Saunders, Webb thinks that Obama would be well served by emphasizing a populist theme for the rest of the campaign. “There’s not a lot of difference between the situations of those people he was trying to help in Chicago and the people in southwest Virginia,” Webb said.
Our visit happened to take place just as the financial markets were plummeting. Webb sensed an opportunity for Obama to break through the old values-driven alignments, in Virginia and beyond.

13 Responses to “New Yorker dissects Appalachian votes”

  1. Kilo says:

    Democrats will vote for McCain/ Palin in greater numbers than you will believe here in SWVA. 80% of Dems voted Hillary. That same 80% will vote McCain. In the end, that will cost Obama the state.

  2. The Valley Progressive says:

    Huh? Luckily No. VA is a heck of a lot smarter than appalachia and they will give the State to Obama, as they did for Warner, Kaine & Webb. If you think that those people progressive enough to vote for Hillary will now vote for a half-dead, senile Bush clone then you are high. I want what you are smoking!

  3. Renee says:

    “80% of Dems voted Hillary. That same 80% will vote McCain.”

    I wholeheartedly disagree! I’ve done a few “Neighbor to Neighbor” calls using the tool on to survey random female registered voters in Harrisonburg, and there were even two 79-year-old ladies (one indep., one dem.) that are very excited to be voting for Obama this year! (And I only got a hold of about 15 people total, so I consider the 6 or 7 Obama supporters I got to be an encouraging sign for Barack)

    I think if someone were a Hillary supporter, they’d probably be more likely to stay home on election day than to vote for McCain. But I do think the most likely thing they’ll do is vote for Obama.

  4. JGFitzgerald says:

    The New Yorker used to be famous for its fact-checking, meaning that once upon a time a NY writer would not have entered the Shenandoah Valley at Roanoke except by teleportation.

    As to the vote claims from the blogger above, Clinton did win the 9th District, but with 65, not 80. The remainder of SWVA is in the 6th District, which Obama won, with 54 percent. I suppose it’s interesting to postulate that a district with one of the state’s three (out of 11) Democratic congressmen would go 80 percent for McCain. After all, pigs, with or without lipstick, may fly.

  5. Jim T says:

    …and on the Republican side, I think that Huckabee carried those areas. Given McCain’s stand on so many things, it is hard to imagine what he’s got to offer those voters to win them over.

  6. Renee says:

    Yep. Good point, Jim T that we have to look at who people supported on both sides. And thanks for the extra info, JGF.

  7. MF says:

    80%, where did you pull that number from? That would mean Clinton would have won the 6th district, when actually she lost.

  8. Dan Easley says:

    most of the banjo players i know are voting for obama.

  9. finnegan says:

    Dan, is that tenor or five-string players? Because I hear McCain is polling pretty well among tenor banjo players.

  10. jgfitzgerald says:

    A teacher of string bass volunteers at Obama HQ. A clear case of Democrats appealing to their bass.

  11. Emmy says:

    Oh my :)

  12. Renee says:

    ha :p

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