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Chip Collis

Chip Collis

Posted: May 23, 2008 01:50 PM

The Billary Hillbillies

As peripatetic postman Cliff Clavin of Cheers fame could have told us, it's a little known fact that the term "hillbilly" originally referred to Northern Ireland Protestants in the 17th century, supporters of King William of Orange (hence "billy.") Only later did the term gain its modern usage descriptive of the provincials of the Appalachian region.

Hillary Clinton, through her dad, is a descendant of British Protestant immigrant forebears who settled in the Appalachian region. Between that background, and her time as First Lady of Arkansas, which includes part of the Ozarks, Hillary Clinton has a natural, built-in base that essentially makes her Queen of the Hillbillies, but little else.

The pundits, pollsters and general populace have it all wrong. Obama doesn't have a "working-class white" problem; Hillary has a non-hillbilly problem. Since February 5, a.k.a. Super Duper Tuesday, Clinton has won exactly two states that were NOT infested with hillbillies. One was teeny-tiny Rhode Island on March 4. The other was a teeny-tiny pyrrhic victory in Indiana.

Recent polling
shows that Obama has actually closed the gap between himself and Hillary in what had been considered her core constituencies. Among whites they are tied at 47% and, shockingly, virtually tied (47% Obama to 46% Clinton) among voters with no college education. Most tellingly, he has surged to a 7-point preference among Hispanics. Oregon exit polls confirm these trends, where he won among whites 57% - 42%, among women 52% - 48% and among those making less than $50,000 54% - 45%.

So, clearly, the conventional wisdom about a monolithic national preference among "working-class whites" for Hillary is a myth. The reality is that, if it weren't for the Appalachians and the Ozarks, this race would have been over two months ago. Actually, it was, but like the Hatfields and/or the McCoys, Hillfield McClinton doesn't know when to put up her shootin' iron.

Coupled with her so-called "victories" in the uncontested Michigan and Florida campaigns, the huge showing she's had in those areas has allowed her to maintain the illusion that she is a strong national candidate. But the truth is that she only beats up on Barack Obama in counties that vote Republican in the general, anyway.

Check out this story by Josh Marshall over at TPM. I found this to be one of the most revealing electoral maps I've ever seen. In it, he juxtaposes a map of the Appalachian region, which runs from southwestern New York all the way down to northeastern Mississippi, against a map showing the counties across the US where Hillary has attained 65% or more of the votes.

The correlation is beyond amazing. It is absolute. There are two outliers in the data, among heavily Hispanic areas in southern Texas and in northern Michigan, where she was almost the only person on the ballot. Other than that, Hillary's big margins of victory have come almost exclusively from the Appalachian and Ozark Mountains.

The effect is clear in states that she's won, like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arkansas.

But if you compare the county-by-county results, you'll see that even in states where Obama has won, Clinton still wins the hillbilly country. Just look at the maps for Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

The bottom line is that, for the last 15 weeks, Clinton's only remaining strength is among voters like Granny Clampett, Ma Kettle, Snuffy Smith and Li'l Abner. She's the Queen of the Billary Hillbillies and almost no one else.