West Virginia

Dems Wonder What's the Matter with West Virginia?

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -- It wasn't that long ago that West Virginia was a rather reliable blue dot on your electoral map.

Michael Dukakis won here. So did Jimmy Carter -- twice. Bill Clinton was also 2-for-2.

But something has changed: Al Gore lost West Virginia by 6 points. John Kerry made it closer, but still lost by 2.5 points. It's on Barack Obama's wish list -- but the long list, not the short list.

This is not the flip-side of neighboring Virginia, where demographic changes are making a red state purple.

Fueled by a still-strong union presence, Democrats continue to enjoy a wide registration advantage, though the number of independents here is growing. Democrats hold both US Senate seats in addition to the governor's mansion in West Virginia.

With the state's battered economy, lost manufacturing jobs, and struggling mining industry, this would seem like a prime Democratic opportunity.

What's standing in Obama's way? Well -- Obama lost by 41 points in the primary here -- even though he had the nomination close to his grasps.

Surely there are lots of reasons -- but don't ignore the culture gap that you would find in many other states. It's that gap that could be Obama's biggest obstacle -- in West Virginia, and far beyond.

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