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North Carolina vs. Kentucky: A Snapshot of How Racial and Economic Politics Shape the Democratic Vote

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Hillary Clinton is facing one sure roadblock on her way to a clean sweep through the South Dakota and Montana primaries on June 3rd. That state is North Carolina, where Clinton has trailed Barack Obama by double digits in six of nine nonpartisan polls conducted since her wins in Ohio and Texas.

Clinton is expected (at least, by Smart Politics) to post big wins in Pennsylvania (April 22nd), Indiana (May 6th), West Virginia (May 13th), and, of interest to this entry, Kentucky (May 20th).

While Kentucky is located a tad northwest of North Carolina, these southern states offer a simple, but persuasive explanation as to why Clinton will trounce Obama in the former, but is struggling to get within single digits in the latter. While the data below from the U.S. Census is not broken down by partisanship, it is evident which state generally caters to each candidate's base of support.

To begin with, Kentucky is a more rural state, a positive demographic for Clinton (in primaries, not caucuses). In the Bluegrass State there are 101.7 persons per square mile, compared to 165.2 in North Carolina.

Obama performs particularly strong among the wealthier (Democratic) populations. Kentucky, however, is a poorer state with a median household income of nearly $4,000 less ($37,046) than in North Carolina ($40,863). The percentage of residents who live below the poverty level is also notably higher in Kentucky (16.3 percent) than in North Carolina (13.8 percent).

Obama also performs very well among more educated populations, and the percentage of residents who have earned a high school diploma is 4 points higher in North Carolina (78.1 percent) than in Kentucky (74.1 percent). Likewise, the percentage of residents who have received a Bachelor's degree is much higher in North Carolina (22.5 percent) than in Kentucky (17.1 percent).

Finally, and most importantly, North Carolina is home to approximately three times as many blacks (21.7 percent) as Kentucky (7.5 percent), based on the percentage of each state's population. Obama is drawing support of 80 to 90 percent of blacks in most primaries.

The result: Obama boasts double digit leads among likely voters in North Carolina in recent polls by InsiderAdvantage (15 points) and LA Times / Bloomberg (13 points). SurveyUSA, meanwhile, has just staked Clinton to a 36-point lead in Kentucky, 62 to 26 percent.

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Remains of the Data

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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