Hillary Clinton Doubles Down on Kentucky Derby

By | 5/16/2016 Leave a Comment
Kentucky primary result

After a stinging and unexpectedly big loss to Bernie Sanders in West Virginia last week, Hillary Clinton is pulling out all the stops in a bid to prevent a repeat in Kentucky on Tuesday.

Unlike that race, in which she barely stepped foot inside the state and all but ceded it to her rival, Clinton has been battling hard in the bluegrass state in recent days, including eight campaign stops in the last two days alone. Her team has also invested heavily in TV ad buys as it attempts to bolster her chances of ending her string of embarrassing losses to the Senator from Vermont.

But why Kentucky and not West Virginia?

Firstly, Kentucky’s primary, unlike West Virginia’s, is a closed one, so independent voters – often key to so many of Sanders’ past victories – will not be a factor this time around. And while the state is predominantly white, both Louisville and Lexington have sizable numbers of African-American voters – often key to so many of her past victories. Also, the state’s Democrats tend to skew more moderate than liberal, further enhancing her chances of a decent showing. And while her controversial comments prior to the West Virginia vote – telling a CNN Town Hall audience, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” – undoubtedly hurt her in that state’s vote, Kentucky’s coal industry represents a smaller segment of its economy.

However, that industry still represents a sizable number of votes and perhaps more importantly is tied to the state’s history and culture where a slight to one could be perceived as a slight to all – which may explain why she sent her husband to campaign in the coal mining communities there instead of showing up in person.

That gaffe, though, may also have more far-reaching effects than are at first apparent. By any measure it was a clumsy and ill-conceived statement from a campaigner famous for her tightly scripted, on-message rigidity. It would be a stretch in the extreme to imagine that that line was a simple off-the-cuff utterance made in haste and repented at leisure. There’s very little that escapes the lips of the former Secretary of State that hasn’t been crafted, revised, test-marketed, and stamped for approval.

Looked at from that perspective, it wasn’t simply a gaffe it was a clear example of poor judgment. Considering her early support for Barry Goldwater, her vote for the Iraq war, her handling of the Benghazi fiasco, and her private email server scandal, accusations of poor judgment are not something she can afford any more of right now.

The upshot:

While her defeat in West Virginia seemed almost expected by the Clinton campaign (though clearly not by such a huge margin), they evidently have higher hopes for Kentucky. A further defeat here at the hands of Bernie Sanders will only serve to further entrench the doubts that many in the party have been harboring over the past several months about the strength of her candidacy. In other words…she’s got a lot riding on it.

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