05/14/2008 11:23 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hillary And The Racist Gap

Hillary's argument that Obama can't reach white working-class voters makes perfect sense. It represents her true politics -- based in buzzkill pragmatism of the most cynical kind. Will we cater to the worst in our voters all the time? Yes we will! paraphrase Amy Poehler-in-her-Hillary-banana-suit on SNL: "My voters will never vote for Senator Obama because they're racist." It was hilarious because it called out the Clinton campaign on its not-so-subtle identity politics. Last night, Clinton all but made West Virginia '08 into Alabama '64.

But what if Hillary's line is right?

Last month after the Pennsylvania caucus, I mentioned a Republican calculation that 15% of white voters would never vote for a Black man. Exit polls gave circumstantial confirmation.

Then came reports earlier this week of Obama canvassers confronting racists in the streets and on the phone.

Last night, more than half of West Virginia's 95% white voters said that they wouldn't be happy if Obama got the nomination. A shockingly large number say they would vote for McCain if he got the nomination.

Democrats for both Obama and Hillary insist that this is a temporary condition, that once the rancor of the primaries is over, all hatchets will be buried. Obama, for his part, has ignored the white-baiting and did almost no campaigning in West Virginia.

But Earl Ofari Hutchinson notes that where Obama picked up white voters, the states aren't even in play. He calls an Obama candidacy "the Democrat's gamble".

Is there a racist gap? And if so, can Obama overcome it?

Jeff Chang can be found at and at Can't Stop Won't Stop.