Arkansas, Kentucky primaries pose challenge for Obama
May 23rd, 2012
09:34 AM ET
8 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. Natalie in MN

    These backwards states will never learn. The don't even have the insight to see who's on their side so they'd rather cast a vote for Romney who will bring back the failed Bush policies? Ludicrous, but I'm not surprised. Romney is so out of touch with these folks it's pathetic, yet they likely watch Fox Noise to get their faux news, so they are suckers. Sorry, but Obama can't be blamed for the most horrible Congress in recent history; they've blocked most everything he's put on the table. The solution is to clean out the idiots who got voted in in 2010 who promised "JOBS!" Yep, they got their jobs alright!

    May 23, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    I find this article to be bad journalism. It sensationalizes something that is not all sensational. Yes, Obama did do well in Arkansas and Kentucky this year, nor in 2008. Guess what, though? Aside from former Arkansas Governer Bill Clinton, Democrats have lost both of these traditionally red states for the past few decades.

    May 23, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  3. Dr. KnowItAll

    Unbelievable ! I thought BO was the hands down Deomocrat favorite. How could 42% of Democrats feel differently ?

    May 23, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  4. Benjamin Forte

    That's a low turnout for a state like Kentucky. I guess people think this thing is over for the Repblicans but, it's not.

    May 23, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  5. winky

    No worries democrats are not voting yet because their is no need to. The president has the support when the time comes!

    May 23, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  6. Data Driven

    Romney's rather tepid results in Hillbillia sorta make this a nonstory, que non? In any case, I'm originally from KY; I know these people. KY is probably the most racist state in America, if only because Deep South states still have pretty large Af-Am populations. If you think Kentuckians are thrilled with a black president, you've got another think coming.

    May 23, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  7. winky

    Also look at the morman he is not receiving all the votes,Satanorum received votes and he dropped out long ago?

    May 23, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  8. Anonymous

    Another hate on Obama Tea Party feeding frenzy, CNN?
    How terribly sad when hate is all a great nation such as
    America has left to promote. Sarah Palin, Scott Walker,
    Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity,
    Ann Coulter, Fox News, the Koch brothers, etc, etc, etc.
    And there are those who think Mitt Romney has what it
    takes to tone the haters down? Not going to happen.
    They'll all turn on him too. Hate sells. Big time.

    May 23, 2012 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  9. Al-NY,NY

    "both states are expected to vote solidly Republican in November's general election."

    than why should Obama care?? The hillbillies are going to vote against their best interests because God, Guns, and Gays are all they care about

    May 23, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  10. overitalready

    @Data Driven: Please do not speak as though you are talking for the entire state of KY. I am not an Obama supporter but it is in no way due to him being Black, and please don't forget he is also White. The racism you speak of in KY is unfair and of your own opinion, so please keep it to yourself.

    May 23, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  11. Rudy NYC

    Hey, CNN. Was not this an open primary? Yes.
    Could not Republicans vote for the Democratic challenger if they so chose? Yes.
    How come the article does not inform the reader of this critical fact? ???

    May 23, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  12. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    What is the point of this????????. L:iptak you could have put your name in the Republican two Southern state primaries Arkansas and Kentucky and won. What a country. Go Obama

    May 23, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  13. Fair is Fair

    "The hillbillies are going to vote against their best interests"
    How do you know what ANYONE'S "best interests" are... besides your own?

    May 23, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  14. Fair is Fair

    "Hey, CNN. Was not this an open primary? Yes."
    Arkansas, Yes.
    Kentucky, No.

    May 23, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  15. GI Joe

    Mitt's first day he will cut healthcare, soc. security, medicare.

    His second day he will send poor kids to fight in Iran.

    His third thru 14th days he will vacation in France.

    May 23, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. Lolo

    They were not going to vote for him anyway, so who cares. They had already made up their minds from the moment he was elected in 2008. Their only plan is to get rid of Presdient Obama because of his color. Also to the poster who says that his color does not matter he is half white, that is not the color that you see. You see a black man and that is the truth, but you won't admit it. You need to be protesting how Boehner and his GOP/ TP buddies have failed America with their childish attitudes and hatred. They all need to be voted out.

    May 23, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. Phil

    It is interesting, but I can't remember this happening to any other incumbent President EVER....I guess the old expression of ; "fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me" applies here. Mr. President, even though most Americans were born during the day, it wasn't yesterday.

    May 23, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  18. Brian

    What challange he's not going to spend any money there anyway. He knows he stands no chance of winning either state in the general election

    May 23, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  19. Critcal Thinking

    I wonder why democrats are now choosing to not support their candidate?

    May 23, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  20. John

    I'm amazed that people will vote for someone who cares nothing about the middle class or the poor. The folks who live in both Kentucky and Arkansas relied heavily on Federal funding(welfare) to be naïve to think Mr.Romney cares about them is a joke. If people can't see the country is moving forward and getting bad is really disappointing. If all these folks only sees a black man instead of the man in the oval office we have not over come and we will never over come. If this person get elected the first thing he is going to said let's all come together. Which is bunch crock. If the republicans really care about our country they would put country first instead of party.......

    May 23, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  21. CanadaONE

    The US is falling apart – when the country crumbles and nothing of a national identity exists – Democractic states can join Canada – free health care – cheaper education – lower unemployment rate – we live longer by 8 years

    Republican states can join South America – albeit South Amercia may not want them

    Canada is hoping that Obama saves you – as Ronmoney will certainly DESTROY you

    May 23, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair pointed out.

    "Hey, CNN. Was not this an open primary? Yes."
    Arkansas, Yes.
    Kentucky, No.
    Yes. Arkansas is where Pres. Obama had the challenger who ran on a platform of repeal the ACA..

    May 23, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  23. Stop the Hate

    To all the uninformed know it alls....

    Ky is a CLOSED primary. Only democrats can vote in the democratic primary and republicans can only vote in the republican primary. Moreover, in order to vote in any given primary, you had to be a member of that political party prior to Jan. 1.

    I doubt highly that race is the motivating factor in Ky. Frankly, the democrats who went so far as to vote in an uncontested primary are upset with the current administration, plain and simple. Stop playing the race card.

    May 23, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  24. Sean

    This says that in Kentucky, 58% voted for Obama and 42% voted for "uncommitted." Isn't that the same thing?

    May 23, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  25. Norma Vessels

    "Kentucky and Arkansas may pose a challenge for President Obama" .. even though Arkansas didn't even give Mitt Romney 70% of the vote, the rest of the votes went to Ron Paul and Rick Santorum (who are not even running now!) and Kentucky gave more votes to President Obama than they did Mitt Romney. That tells me that Mitt Romney may have the challenge ..

    May 23, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
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