If you have given any attention to the punditry regarding the Democratic primary contests you have probably heard about Obama's so-called "Appalachia Problem." The premise is simple: Obama does not do well with hill people, particularly in places like West Virginia and Kentucky. As a result dire election results from such areas can be safely discounted. Move along…nothing to see here.
The (mostly) unspoken subtext is less subtle. "These are nothing but toothless, racist hillbillies. Can't you hear the banjos?"
The "Appalachia" meme is being pushed by those who want to hide the extent of Obama's difficulties in rural America. By calling it an "Appalachia problem" you can attempt to inoculate against the idea of a more general rural problem for Obama. If one, for example, were to discover an "Ohio River Valley Problem," well it becomes harder to demonize such voters. Whatever images come to mind when you think of the Ohio River Valley and its people, it isn't scary inbred white trash. In fact, most rural Americans would think of these folks as being like themselves in most important ways.
When you look at primary results across that part of the country it becomes clear that Obama does indeed have an "Ohio River Valley" problem.
Here are the results by county in those places bordering the Ohio river:
Clinton win by 30% or more: Brown, Adams, Scioto, Lawrence, Gallia, Meigs, Washington, Monroe, Belmont, Jefferson, Carroll, Harrison, Guernsey, Noble, Morgan, Vinton, Jackson, Pike, Highland
Clinton win by 10%-29%: Clinton, Warren, Butler
Clinton win by less that 10%: Athens
Obama win: Hamilton
Clinton win by 30% or more: Dearborn, Ohio, Switzerland, Franklin, Ripley, Jefferson, Jennings, Clark, Scott, Floyd, Harrison, Washington, Crawford, Perry, Orange, Pike, Gibson
Clinton win by 10%-29%: Spencer, Dubois, Warrick, Posey
Clinton win by less than 10%: Vanderburgh
Obama win: None
Clinton win by 10%-29%: Gallatin, Hardin, Pope, Johnson, Union
Clinton win by less than 10% White, Hamilton, Saline, Massac
Obama win: Alexander, Pulaski
Clinton win by 30% or more: Carlisle, Graves, Ballard, McCracken, Marshall, Livingston, Crittenden, Lyon, Caldwell, Webster, Union, Henderson, McLean, Daviess, Ohio, Hancock, Breckinridge, Grayson, Meade, Bullitt, Spencer, Henry, Trimble, Carroll, Gallatin, Owen, Grant, Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Pendleton, Bracken, Robertson, Mason, Fleming, Lewis, Rowan, Greenup, Boyd, Carter, Lawrence
Clinton win by 10%-29%: Hardin, Shelby, Oldham
Obama win: Jefferson
Clinton win by 30% or more: Wayne, Mingo, Lincoln, Cabell, Putnam, Mason, Jackson, Roane, Wirt, Wood, Ritchie, Pleasants, Tyler, Doddridge, Wetzel, Marshall, Brooke, Hancock, Marion, Harrison
Clinton win by 10%-29%: Kanawha, Ohio, Monongalia
Obama win: None
Clinton win by 30% or more: Greene, Washington, Beaver, Lawrence, Armstrong, Westmoreland
Clinton win by 10%-29%: Butler
Clinton win by less than 10%: Allegheny
Obama win: None
So, of the 133 counties in the Ohio River Valley, Obama managed to win 4 (or 3%.) Obama lost 103 (77%) counties by more than 30 percentage points. Obama lost by at least 10 percentage points in 122 (92%) counties.
So the next time someone tries to sell you on the "Appalachia" meme, feel free to laugh in their face.