Timothy M. Meyer
is a Pennsylvania native and a Republican consultant and strategist based in Washington
Since he began his quest for the presidency, Sen. Barack Obama has based his campaign on one central message - change. Unfortunately, there are some numbers he can't change.
Obama has lost big primaries in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And a week after winning no counties and only 26 percent of the popular vote in West Virginia, he won 30 percent of the vote in Kentucky and only two of 120 counties - a nine-point victory in Louisville's Jefferson County and a five-point margin in Lexington's Fayette County.
The good news for Obama is that Jefferson and Fayette are Kentucky's largest counties. The bad news is he didn't win more than 41 percent of the vote anywhere else in the state.
Although it has voted Republican the last two presidential cycles, Kentucky is one of the few Southern states with the potential to be a battleground for Democrats. The state voted for Bill Clinton twice and Democrats have an edge of nearly 600,000 in voter registration, though a large portion of those residents tend to be conservative Reagan Democrats.
But while Kentucky could be in play for Democrats with the right candidate, it is becoming clearer that Obama is not that person.
He lost nearly every demographic group possible in Kentucky. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won among men, 64 percent; women, 67 percent; under-65 voters, 63 percent; and those 65 and older, 78 percent. Clinton even won the under-25 voters, 57 percent, usually a key Obama constituency. She won among the college-educated, 60 percent; the non-college-educated, 75 percent; and took at least 60 percent in every income level. Obama won 90 percent of black voters, but they were only 9 percent of the vote, according to CNN exit polls.
Conventional wisdom has pushed a narrative that Obama tends to win among younger, urban and more educated voters. In Jefferson and Fayette Counties, that narrative partly held true. But the rest of Kentucky's more liberal voters and its swing counties ought to cause concern for Obama's campaign.
Of Kentucky's 120 counties, President Bush in 2000 and 2004 averaged more than 55 percent of the vote in all but 31. In an election in which Democrats will try to tie John McCain to Bush, those 31 counties are fertile ground for Democrats. Yet in 23 of the 31, Obama failed to exceed 20 percent of the vote. And in 12 of those counties, he was stuck in single digits.
Kentucky is only one state. But so, too, are West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio. And together they represent a growing pattern not favorable to Barack Obama.