This Grady column was entertaining, since she had to do quite a few backflips and contortions to make the comparison between the 1960 West Virginia primary and today’s anything but a horrible omen for Obama. As the story usually goes, his West Virginia win suggested that anti-Catholic sentiment would not drag Kennedy down and aided him on his way to the nomination, so the obvious point of comparing the two would be to say that the candidate who is likened to JFK on a regular basis is in serious trouble because of deep resistance to his candidacy in this part of the country and the Humphrey-like figure (that would be Clinton) is on the verge of a significant victory. Just by drawing the comparison people are giving today’s primary significance it may not even deserve, since the winner in 1960 did go on to become President (never mind about how he won the general election). For that matter, when Clinton says that “it is a fact” that no Democrat since 1916 has won the White House without winning West Virginia in the general, she happens to be telling the truth for a change, and it seems certain that West Virginia will go for McCain if Obama is the nominee.
Instead, because the outcome is not in doubt and the repudiation of Obama is unmistakable, we get an argument that Clinton can learn from Humphrey how to “bow out gracefully.” But why would she “bow out gracefully” if, as polls suggest, she is going to win perhaps as much as 75% of the vote and net more than a dozen delegates? Another problem with the comparison is that, as Grady relates, Kennedy campaigned extensively in the state and fought to win; today was Obama’s second visit to the state during this election cycle. The reason Obama did not make an effort is that his deficit of 30 or 40 points is much greater than Kennedy’s was, and probably could not have made much of a dent in it had he expended the effort and money.