As promised from last night, here’s the nice little color coded map I promised showing the counties won by President Obama and his some guy opponent John Wolfe. Obama’s victories are, fittingly, in blue, and Wolfe’s are in red. Two counties, Newton and Marion, were still outstanding when I drew up the map, so they’re not colored in. (Seriously, what is wrong with those two tiny little counties that they can’t get votes counted?)
Now look, Arkansas is not Obama country. We knew this and we knew that Wolfe was bound to draw in some heavy votes in an open primary like we have in Arkansas. My question here isn’t about that, but why specifically he won the areas that he did and why Obama carried some places you would think would have been fertile ground for Wolfe votes.
The first question that obviously sprang to mind was that this was a matter of race. Yeah, it surely was for a lot of folks-if you don’t realize that after living in this state for even a short amount of time you’ve got to be pretty naive. However, if it were all about race, you would think that Wolfe would have carried some counties like Lonoke and Boone, which have communities (Cabot and Harrison respectively) that are known for some ugly racist sentiment. Obama of course carried the areas with a large African American population, just as you would expect, but he still carried some counties that were pretty surprising.
Then there’s the question of ideology and partisanship, but again that’s clearly not the issue here. Jackson county is strongly Democratic and was carried by Wolfe. Pope, Benton, White, Lonoke, Garland, and Saline counties, to name a few, are all very conservative counties, a tendency that has generally reached over into the Democratic primaries as well. (See Lincoln vs. Halter.) Again though, those counties all went to President Obama.
I suppose you could argue that the 2nd and 3rd districts didn’t have competitive Democratic primaries at the congressional level and that the competitive races drove out some anti-Obama voters into the Democratic primaries. Nope, doesn’t hold water-turn out was low all across the state and there were a couple of second district counties that went for Wolfe.
So what accounts for these results? Well again, the counties being carried by Some Guy running against Obama here in Arkansas isn’t totally surprising, but what sticks out to me is the regional concentration of them. Of particular curiosity is the huge blob of red in northeast Arkansas. The night of the election, just before the votes started ticking in, I got a call from a friend of mine in Jonesboro who said he was never buying a copy of the Jonesboro Sun again because, according to him, they ran a prominent article on Wolfe just before the election. Keep in mind, this useless rag is one of those many crappy local papers we have in Arkansas that can barely get the story of what’s happening in their local neighborhoods right. That they’d run a big article on a joke candidate running against the president of the United States is pretty head scratching. I haven’t seen the article-I don’t know what all was written, but I did see that the paper’s online edition had a headline that was almost gloating:
Wolfe whips Obama in county races
Side note to the editors at the Jonesboro Sun…You really should think about the ugly connotations the word “whips” carries in this particular context. That’s all I’m going to say on that point.
The Sun has a pretty extensive reach in NEA. The D-G has already gotten attention for glowing right ups on Wolfe, something we’ve never seen done on a hopeless fringe candidate like this before. Was embarrassing the president their intention? Maybe. Arkansas’s traditional media is very conservative and does a pretty lousy job of actually reporting the news accurately, and as we’ve seen in the past they’re loathe to give progressive politics any kind of coverage, much less accurate coverage. So yeah, it’s not so far out there to question whether Arkansas’s right wing traditional media didn’t go all out to puff this guy Wolfe up. Judging from the map, it looks like to some extent they succeeded, especially the Jonesboro Sun.
That said, Mitt Romney’s victory here in Arkansas wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement either. Between them, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul all won close to thirty percent of the vote, despite having all dropped out of the race and all being extremely weak candidates in the first place. Romney’s Wall Street ties and Mormonism don’t exactly resonate in Arkansas. He’ll carry the state, sure, mostly by virtue of not being and (perhaps more importantly) not looking like, Obama. But turnout in Arkansas is going to be insanely low this year as the state isn’t exactly salivating for either party’s presidential candidate.