Arkansas, Kentucky primaries pose challenge for Obama
May 23rd, 2012
09:34 AM ET
11 years ago

Arkansas, Kentucky primaries pose challenge for Obama

(CNN) – President Barack Obama faced unlikely challenges in two Southern state primaries Tuesday, though the results won't pose any threat to his status as the Democratic presidential nominee, and both states are expected to vote solidly Republican in November's general election.

In Arkansas, Obama won the Democratic presidential primary with 58% of the vote, facing a challenge from lawyer and perpetual presidential candidate John Wolfe. Wolfe had 42% of the vote on Wednesday morning, with 53 of 75 counties reporting results.

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In another Southern state, Kentucky, Obama fared similarly, with 58% of Democratic primary voters casting their ballots for him. Forty-two percent voted for "uncommitted."

The results in Arkansas and Kentucky are largely about appearance rather than substance – after all, Obama already has the requisite delegates to become his party's nominee at this summer's Democratic National Convention. But tepid enthusiasm among Democrats doesn't look great for his campaign, which has sought to put states into play that were previously considered unwinnable for Democrats.

Both Kentucky and Arkansas went for Sen. John McCain in the 2008 election by large margins, and have long histories of supporting Republicans in presidential elections. In the 2008 Democratic primaries, Obama lost by large margins in both states to then-candidate Hillary Clinton (whose husband, former President Bill Clinton, served as Arkansas' governor before heading to the White House.)

However, other southern and Appalachian states are considered in play for Obama in November: North Carolina and Virginia are both states the president won in 2008 but that he's fighting to retain in 2012. Obama won North Carolina's Democratic primary on May 8 with 79% of the vote.

Even Mitt Romney, who is now considered the likely GOP nominee, failed to crack 70% in the Arkansas and Kentucky primaries Tuesday. In Arkansas, Romney had 68% of the vote, with Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former GOP candidate Rick Santorum both taking 13% as of Wednesday morning.

In Kentucky, 117,599 votes were cast for Romney in the GOP primary, amounting to 67% of the total. Obama was ahead of the former Massachusetts governor in terms of total ballots cast, with 119,284.

Republicans quickly pounced on the results in Arkansas and Kentucky to paint the president as unpopular within his own party, launching a social media campaign to mock the "uncommitted" results in Kentucky. A graphic using Obama's campaign logo is paired with the words " Fired up! Ready to go! Uncommitted!" in an online flier distributed by the Republican National Committee.

Text on the RNC's graphic reads: "Not sure who to vote for? These new campaign buttons proudly state your reluctance as a Democrat to vote for Obama after he didn't keep his campaign promises the first time around. Join your fellow Democrats and say you're fired up! Ready to go! Ready to vote for anyone but Obama."

Tuesday's results are the second time in the past month the president has faced a Democratic challenge in a state unlikely to vote for him in the fall.

In West Virginia's May 8 primary, Keith Judd received a sizable chuck of the Democratic vote – 41% by the latest count. Judd is currently serving a 210-month sentence in a federal prison in Texas for extortion.

In an interview with CNN after the election, Judd attributed his success to anger directed toward the political establishment.

"The poor and middle class are being controlled by the wealthy," Judd said. "It's like Monopoly. When one person gets all the money, the game is over."

Asked about Judd's success in an interview with WTOV, Vice President Joe Biden said he doesn't "blame people, they're frustrated, they're angry."

"When you're out of work, man, it's a depression," Biden told the CNN Ohio affiliate. "And a lot of people are still hurt because of this God awful recession we inherited that cost 8.4 million jobs before we could really get going."

CNN's Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Arkansas • Kentucky • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Yea, some people will never learn! Perhaps that's why African-American families are still sending their All-American kids to go win basketball championships for states like Kentucky where those southerners don't give a crap about them! As they say, those who ignore history are bound to repeat it! Fools!

    May 23, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  2. Norma Vessels

    And this to Data Driven ... you think you know Kentucky .. how long did you live here anyway .. we are no more racist than a lot of other states .. I know a lot of people around here in mid-state, who will take anyone on who says anything against President Obama. We love him .. want him to be President for the next four and a half years. There's just not enough of us Democrats in Kentucky, to overwhelm the Republicans, when it comes to voting, but we do go vote. Yes, I did vote yesterday, and marked beside our president's name.

    May 23, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  3. mctampa

    What exactly is the trouble? he was not going to win these states anyway, are you kidding me, either one voting for a black president will not happen in our life time. Some things don't change.

    May 23, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I don't think the way people in Kentuck or Arkansas vote should be based on what party affiliation they are loyal to! Americans should always vote for the candidate who truly cares about the people and not for candidates who caters only to the privileged few! Yes, Kentucky may have more republicans than democrats, but after what GWB and the republicans did to our country for eight straight years and continue to do even today, deliberately stalling progress in Washington because they want the black President and America to fail, it shouldn't be that difficult for republicans in your southern states to say enough is enough! No, republicans in your southern states turn the other cheek and continue to allow these un-Americans republicans to destroy our country! There's something seriously wrong with the people in your southern states!

    May 23, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  5. Kevin

    I see the gambit of thought here and most of it is not good. I feel compassion for you who still blame Bush for everything and Obama somehow is so innocent. Regardless of what problems Obama inherited from a previous president (just like those before him) Obama was responsible for how to fix those problems. He made a lot of poor decisions that cost us heavyly. The Dems have controlled Congress from 2007 to 2010 and still control the Senate. Reid has seen fit to never pass a budget and anything that comes from the House Reid calls it "dead on arrival". So who really is responsible here?

    May 23, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  6. Norma Vessels

    It's not that Kentucky and Arkansas are racists .. it's just that there are way too many Republicans that make us look that way .. and we know how Republicans feel about our President Obama! Don't blame the states .. blame the hate filled Republicans.

    May 23, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
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