A new poll released today by Suffolk University still finds Hillary Clinton flirting with a 40-point blowout victory in the West Virginia primary. The survey of 600 likely voters gives Clinton a 60 percent to 24 percent advantage over Barack Obama.
Clinton, who must rack up very large popular vote gains in West Virginia Tuesday and Kentucky next week to keep her slim nomination hopes alive, is not yet seeing any slippage in West Virginia, where she has polled at 60 percent or higher in 3 of the 4 public polls released this month.
Last Thursday, Smart Politics estimated how much of a dent Clinton would make in her popular vote deficit after the West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oregon primaries, conservatively allowing for Obama to close the gap to about 20 points in West Virginia ("Will West Virignia and Kentucky Make A Difference for Clinton?"). But Obama has taken a different tactic this past week from other recent primaries, and that is to act more like the nominee (i.e. ignoring Clinton and the primary campaigns) and less like a candidate for the nomination.
As a result, Obama's decision to essentially write off West Virginia as a 'meaningless loss' has meant that he is probably not going to introduce himself to nor inspire as many new voters there as he has throughout the campaign. As such, the status quo image of him among West Virginians will prevail and Clinton will win in a landslide.
If Clinton should win by 30 points, instead of 20, Smart Politics estimates she will pick up 90,000 votes against Obama in the Mountain State. However, that number could be lessened if the overall turnout in West Virginia is depressed due to Obama's lack of interest in the state (which could be another strategy he is employing to minimize Clinton's net popular vote gain there).
But if West Virginians participate in the Democratic primary at the rate of other states in the region (approximately 40 percent of the 2004 general election turnout), Clinton will net approximately 6,000 votes for every two percentage points she wins against Obama.
One slightly complicating factor, according to the Suffolk University poll, is that John Edwards (whose name will be on the ballot on Tuesday), is still receiving 4 percent of the vote in the state.