Riding a large turnout in rural counties, Sen. Hillary Clinton swept the West Virginia primary Tuesday, winning two thirds of the vote in her long campaign against Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Clinton continued to show exceptional strength in rural areas, especially in West Virginia's coal counties. She won over 70 percent of the vote in rural West Virginia, a level of support that dropped to 62 percent in the state's urban counties. Sen. Obama's strongest turnout came in Morgantown, home of West Virginia University, and in the exurban counties nearest Washington, D.C.
John Edwards of North Carolina, who withdrew from the presidential primary race in January, was still on the ballot in West Virginia and drew 7% of the vote, a substantial showing for a non-candidate.
West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the nation, ranking 48th in median income: $38,029, as compared with the national median income of $48,023. Among white voters making less than $30,000 a year, Clinton's margin of victory was more than 60 points.
The senator from New York campaigned hard in rural West Virginia. On Mothers Day, she visited Grafton and toured the home of Anna Jarvis, the West Virginia woman who pushed to create the national holiday. Clinton read from letters she had received, including one that said, "It's not over until the lady in pantsuit says it is."
The day before the election, Sen. Clinton held a rally at the middle school gym in Logan, West Virginia. Here is how the Logan Banner's Paul Adkins described her visit:
If you had not known it you might have thought Hillary Clinton was the front-runner, the Democratic nominee or even the President of the United States.
If you came to the Clinton rally on Monday at the Logan Middle School gym you might have gotten that kind of impression.
In short, the former First Lady was treated like a rock star.
They came from all over to see her.
They came from every nook and cranny of Logan and the surrounding counties.
They came from Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio and even Pennsylvania.
They came from all walks of life — some old, some middle-aged, some teenagers and some children and even babies.
They all came to see Clinton on the eve of Tuesday's West Virginia primary.
Adkins reported that many of those at the rally said they would be reluctant to vote for Sen. Obama in the fall:
"Like many others at Monday's rally and across West Virginia, (Sue) Dove said she would not switch over to Obama if Clinton's campaign grinds to a halt in the final three weeks. She also echoed the many anti-Republican feelings around the venue. 'No way,' she said. 'He (Obama) scares me to death. I don't care too much about McCain. I might not vote at all.'"
Clinton received her strongest support from West Virginia's staunchest coal counties. Nine out of ten voters in Mingo, Logan and Wyoming counties supported Clinton.
Turnout for Obama was strongest in Jefferson County, a suburban area near Washington, D.C.
Clinton's support in rural West Virginia was not simply a function of race. Both rural and urban parts of this state are overwhelmingly white. Rural West Virginia is 2.9 percent African American; urban West Virginia is 4.3 percent African American, only a 1.4 percentage point difference. Yet Clinton's margin of victory in rural West Virginia was 8.6 percentage points greater than her win in the state's urban counties.
Turnout in rural counties was higher than in urban counties. The voter turnout in West Virginia rural counties was 25.8 percent of registered voters; in urban counties it was 22.7 percent.
Clinton celebrated at a rally in the state capitol of Charleston. "We all know from the Bible, faith can move mountains," Clinton told the jam-packed crowd of about 1,000. "My friends, the faith of the Mountain State has moved me."