Friday, May 30, 2008

Is Webb the Wrong Virginian to Help Obama??

Over at the Democratic Strategist, Ed Kilgore has an interesting post on all the speculation regarding Virginia Senator Jim Webb's VP credentials. In the context of Barack Obama's alleged "Appalachian" problem, many have looked to Webb as the VP nominee who could immediately give the Democrats a chance in this region. Should Obama be able to win Virginia--and with Webb's help Ohio and Pennsylvania--he would be well on the way to the White House, the argument runs.

Kilgore, however, is skeptical of the idea that the Scots-Irish ancestry of so many in this region has much salience. Rather, he argues that economic messages play best and those candidates who best speak to material needs will succeed, regardless of whether they share some ethnic identity with the mountain folk. As evidence, he looks at the last three statewide races in Virginia--2001 Governor, 2005 Governor, 2006 Senator. In all three races the Democrat won--Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Jim Webb respectively. If we look at the voting ni SW Virginia, we see that, in fact, it was the WASPy Mark Warner who did best (Dem. counties in Red; Rep. in Blue):

2001 Warner:

2005 Kaine:

2006 Webb:

With Warner running for Senate this year, his tremendous popularity in the state could potentially create reverse coattails, leaving Obama able to go elsewhere for his VP pick and still be in position to win Virginia's 13 electoral votes.

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