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The KY Presidential Primary Doesn’t Matter


After a tumultuous week in which I was outed as “John Miller,” Donald Trump’s publicist (He’s a tremendously good boss!  With huge hands!), the nation’s political press hordes are descending on our old Kentucky home to cover this week’s presidential primary matchup between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  If you listen closely, you can hear the conventional wisdom narrative slowly gaining volume:  If Clinton loses or narrowly ekes out a win in a state where history and demographics favor her strongly, Bernie-mentum will once again be sweeping the nation.

Allow me to preemptively call foul.  Tuesday’s Kentucky presidential primary means nothing.  And while I beseech you to go to the polls — there are a number of other important elections statewide — I ask you to repeat after me (and Bill Murray):

It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter!

Here’s why:

It’s Over

While it is in no one’s interest to admit this — the media and both campaigns are conspiring to generate continued interest in the race — the Democratic primary is indeed over: Barring some Red Sea-type miracle, Hillary Clinton will be the party’s nominee for President.  Simple math mitigates against her losing the lead in pledged delegates, and the Sanders’ campaign notion that there will be a massive switch in superdelegate commitments is implausible to the point of ridiculousness.

Those elected officials and senior party operatives who cast superdelegate votes would be hard-pressed to mount a concerted challenge to overturn the mandate of the popular vote.  But in the rare case in which they would, it is simply not imaginable that they would cast their lot with a candidate whose ideological bent would help put Donald Trump in the Oval Office.  (Current polls be damned: Most senior party insiders believe that the country is likely not ready to elect a Democratic Socialist.)  More significantly, especially at this high political wire, relationships matter:  Bill and Hillary Clinton have been working this crowd for nearly three decades. So even if Sanders should upset Clinton on her favorable turf, it simply won’t impress them sufficiently to switch sides.

Trump Democrats

As the dean of Kentucky political journalism Al Cross has been pontificating this past week (and big props to the sexagenarian for his mad tweeting skills), there are a significant proportion of registered Democrats in Kentucky who really aren’t Democrats.  While Team Blue holds a 60 to 40% registration margin, that’s almost the inverse of state voting habits in federal elections, in which the Commonwealth has been reliably red for decades.  There are many thousands of voters who stay Democratic out of habit — or to vote in contested primaries in local elections — who simply will never support a Democratic presidential candidate in a general election.

As Cross maintains, many of these registered Democrats fit the Donald Trump voter prototype: older, whiter, less educated, lower-to-middle-income.  Perhaps they find Sanders’ angry, anti-establishment rhetoric appealing.  Perhaps they will cast a vote against “Crooked Hillary,” the current bête noire of The Donald’s worldview.  But make no mistake, these Trump Democrats aren’t embracing a liberal policy agenda.  And they certainly shouldn’t be counted on for demonstrating a national Democratic trend on behalf of the Vermont Senator.


Hillary’s biggest Achilles heel is the issue that’s served as the coup de grace for recent GOP efforts to turn the state red: the so-called “War on Coal.”  Republican propagandists have brilliantly and effectively laid the industry’s death spiral exclusively at the feet of President Barack Obama’s regulatory proposals, even though the mineral’s declining competitiveness is more the result of complex economic factors that long preceded the current Administration.  Democrats, meanwhile, have failed to elaborate upon this more nuanced counter-narrative, while their allies in environmental activism have enthusiastically and publicly cheered coal’s demise.  Accordingly, the profound emotional tie many Kentuckians feel toward the black rock — as well as their jaundiced resentment toward outsider elites who want to deprive them of their geological birthright — has helped transform the once reliably Democratic coalfields in Appalachia and the Western plains into a Republican Maginot Line.

Clinton certainly didn’t help matters when she told a March CNN town hall that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” While she quickly followed up that statement by assuring coal miners that they “would not be forgotten,” the soundbite went viral. While she issued an apology nearly two months later, and actually laid out a promising path forward for central Appalachia that includes clean coal as a bridge to a revitalized post-coal economy, the bumper-sticker gaffe stuck, and Democrats won’t have the time or resources to drive home a compelling counter-message in the short term.  So expect many coal-invested Kentuckians to case a protest vote against Hillary, in favor of Bernie Sanders…who repeatedly has claimed that climate change is the greatest threat to our national security.

The GOP has effectively captured the coal issue for the time being; at least until Kentucky policymakers finally get past the rhetoric and political posturing to develop economic development alternatives in regions that have been devastated by coal’s decline.  As a result, unless Donald Trump’s campaign collapses under its own weight (which frankly is quite possible in today’s political climate), no Democrat will be turning the Bluegrass State blue in November.

And as goes Kentucky…so goes West Virginia.  That’s it.  So the fact that many pro-coal voters might reject Hillary on Tuesday and hand over a primary election to Bernie has no significance in the rest of the country that doesn’t give a whit about our black rock.


To those of you visitors who follow the sport of politics, welcome back to Kentucky.  I hope you enjoy a good bourbon and our lovely spring weather.  But if you want to watch a meaningful horse race, head over to Churchill Downs.  Because when it comes to counting the votes and reading the tea leaves from Tuesday’s presidential primary, it just doesn’t matter.


Article written by Jonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller, The Recovering Politician (Twitter: @RecoveringPol), writes about the politics of sport and the sport of politics...and sometimes about bourbon. Jonathan has been elected twice as Kentucky's State Treasurer; practices as a crisis management attorney; authored three books on faith, public policy and crisis management; serves as a Contributor to The Daily Beast, played straight man on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; reached the final table of the World Series of Poker; and with his summer camp sweetheart, raised two remarkable twenty-something daughters.

25 Comments for The KY Presidential Primary Doesn’t Matter

  1. Bluegrass7914
    9:59 pm May 15, 2016 Permalink

    Who the fyuk are you to tell us the election is over? Ask Hillary why she spent $180,000 on commercials in Kentucky. Oh because its ‘over’?
    Listen here puppet and listen good: we just getting started. Its a long way from over. Hillary Clinton is going to earn this election and at the end… she will kiss the ring and bend the knee.

  2. WestCoastCat
    10:56 pm May 15, 2016 Permalink

    Who the F are you? I have nothing to add the the previous poster didn’t cover except that your opinion is pretty worthless. This thing isn’t over until it’s over.

  3. rob5853
    11:26 pm May 15, 2016 Permalink

    I had no idea this was Kentucky Politics Radio, I just came here for the sports section and it seemed to disappear. But this is just another opinion of a “whiter, less educated, low income” resident of Eastern Kentucky. Way to go Matt , letting more garbage like this on your website. I would be fine with article if not for half that article being jab at Eastern Kentucky.

    • CATandMONKEY
      1:40 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

      Dude, I don’t want Hillary either but aside from an indictment, no way does she NOT win the Democratic National primary.

      What Johnathan has written isn’t really news. He just put it in a KY context.

  4. Londonknights
    11:34 pm May 15, 2016 Permalink

    How much does Miller pay KSR to post on their blog? I hope its a lot. And thanks for not blocking comments on his post this time. I hope Mr. Miller’s skin is as thick as those “whiter, less educated” folks who drive KSR’s ratings up.

  5. sethkirk2
    1:04 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

    I love how you “basic math” includes no numbers or facts

  6. kuhlkat
    2:08 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

    Matt would die before he ever let a conservative post on his site. Matt Ryan Shannon…and everyone involved with KSR are left wingers

  7. vegascatfan
    2:17 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

    Hillary much?

  8. urincatland
    4:22 am May 16, 2016 Permalink


  9. jrunyan
    7:19 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

    He’s right. The primaries are over. The Superdelegates will not swing enough for a Bernie win. Democrats everywhere should be screaming about corruption in their own primary system. Political Establishment at it’s finest.
    “So called war on coal?” Get a clue. Government regulation shut down a major portion of a coal fired power plant in Louisa. People lost jobs, communities suffered.
    This site is becoming more and more pitiful. I realize it’s not basketball or football season and things tend to get a little slow but articles like “Wildcat Faceswap” and these purely biased and left leaning political musings are beneath you KSR.

  10. KansasUKCat
    8:06 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

    Back when Clinton pushed for the NAFTA deal he said that Americans who would lose their jobs because of that would be Retrained for the jobs of the future. These Folks have been waiting for the training ever since.
    I wonder what type of jobs she has in mind for displaced Coal Miners – IT jobs or training in the medical fields? The only jobs I can envision are additional warehouse jobs repackaging goods from China for distribution. Maybe Amazon will build several dozen warehouses in Appalachia. Of course these jobs will only pay half of what they were making in the mines. But to look on the bright-side they will qualify for food stamps and other assistance off the taxpayers backs. These trade deals have been wonder for Walmart buyers but if the trend of out sourcing jobs to China and Asia continues the bottom folks in this economy won’t even be able to shop there.

    • Beavis
      9:17 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

      Well done. Mr Miller has no idea what he is talking about other than what he reads on Facebook and sees on CNN. it is not only the mining jobs that have been lost it is all the associated jobs that support that industry. Those people in appalachia don’t want government handouts, they want the jobs the mining industry provides them.

  11. Booby Petrino
    8:20 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

    lol at the buttheart Bernie supporters. He’s right, “The Bern” is not getting the nod. It’s time for him to have some dignity and bow out. #feelthebernlol #antibioticswillhelpthat

  12. KyDoughBoy
    9:01 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

    Why do you guys think Matt didnt do the whole politician thing? As a democrat/liberal Matt and (his image) would have gotten slaughtered. If you follow him on Twitter he will slowly slide liberal agenda down your throat. KSR…lol

  13. KansasUKCat
    9:49 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

    I look at the picture of Bill Clinton above with Booker and Ulis and reflect back to when he and Hillary left office in 2001. The Clinton family left with “dead broke” by their accounts and today their net worth is at $111 Million – not bad for country folk without a guaranteed NBA contract. How many Goldman-Sachs and other Wall Steet speeches does it take to rake in that kind of cash and to say that they are not beholden to these firms is assinine..!

  14. loservilletard
    10:29 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

    coal would continue to be the major energy source for the country if Oblamo and the Dims would quit using junk science and the EPA to prohibit the use of coal as an energy source. Any Union member or Coal miner that votes for a Dimocrat is voting themselves out of a job. Coal is their target now, but that is only the beginning, they will turn on some other industry next.

    • JoeMoney333
      10:54 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

      Using words such as “Oblamo” & “Dimocrat” doesn’t help perpetuate your image of someone who knows anything more than “Junk Science”.

    • loservilletard
      2:43 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

      its not an image that matters, its acknowledging Oblamo and the Dims damage to this country. They earn their nicknames.

  15. theWilkman
    11:33 am May 16, 2016 Permalink

    Coal is done, face it. There’s nothing Trump or any Republican can do to bring it back. Instead, KY needs to open the doors for new industries to take its place and quit hoping for some magic handout from federal government to fix it. They aren’t coming in to train you, they aren’t bringing coal back, we are on our own.

  16. tncatrn
    12:02 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    Kentucky SPORTS Radio. Keep it up and you will alienate and divide the fan base that gives you “clicks” and has put you all on the pedestal you currently reside on. We the fans made this site successful but your take on Kentucky SPORTS made it worth coming to. If we want political opinions we know where to find them…political news sites. I check this site multiple times on a daily basis and it makes me sick to my stomach the political bull that gets posted sometimes by KSR staff. REALLY?!?! I am a Republican and guess what…I am very educated (I run an Emergency Room full of doctors and nurses), yes I am white, yes I think Hillary belongs under a prison somewhere, NO I DONT CARE WHAT KSR’s POLITICAL VIEWS ARE! Keep them to yourself and move on. If you want the respect of other journalists try being unbiased…they arent but it does not mean you cant take the high road…or better yet stick to what made KSR great…sports…leave political views at home. Jeff Goodman is a tool. Pete Thamel is a douche. Pat Forde is journalistically inept. But I would take them any day of the week over this politcal propagandists notions of a good read. F’ing turd…

  17. You had [email protected]
    12:21 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    You do realize that aside from being a Harvard educated attorney Mr. Miller has also been elected state treasurer twice under a Democrat, Patton, & a Republican, Fletcher. Regulations such as the Clean Air Act were updated in 1990 offering significant changes on Ozone gases targeting acid rain and specifically fossil fuel powered electricity. Included in these changes were significant permit regulation. A lot of these changes had been battled back and forth in court for 20 years till options for appeal/block were exhausted.
    Natural gas is cheaper, both as a futures investment and for extraction & production. It has less environmental impact (no ash) & lower labor cost to produce. Regulations on coal in Europe are much stricter than gas which is a contributing factor to global market changes dating back 3 decades.
    As the relative if former miners who died (are dying) slow deaths from ailments directly related to working in the hole, times need to change. What you should be screaming for is improved broadband and transportation routes (infrastructure) through Eastern KY so that you can increase/improve accessibility to education and goods. This is the best start for returning jobs to mountain communities.

    • theWilkman
      1:00 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

      Great comment. Many of the others on here are exactly what’s wrong with our political atmosphere today. If you’re not on the same side, you’re the enemy. Facts get twisted to fit a specific agenda, and both sides regurgitate it as gospel. Republicans want to “protect coal” but to do so would need to go full-on Big Government. The markets have spoken, coal is the past. KY can continue to cling to that past and slip further and further into economic irrelevance, or we can accept the fact and plan for the future. I know which I choose.

  18. tncatrn
    1:35 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    And Wilkman i absolutely agree. Coal industry as much as I would like to sit and defend it for any reason other than a decent income for alot of people with limited resource access is going the way of the dinosaur. However, this is not the forum for those discussions and politically biased “agenda driven” articles. This site was so great because 1 it stuck to what it was good at and 2 because it didnt take itself too seriously. One could get on here and laugh and not have to look at political propaganda from either side of the isle. You could leave all that crap to the news sites who slant everything they publish to push those “agendas” you speak of….now its a left slanted article every couple of days…all i am saying is get back to the meat if what made this site great and leave the politics to the politcal machinist media…great post by the way

    • theWilkman
      4:14 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

      I agree with you there, the left-leaning posts are more frequent than I’d like. I also think there are plenty readers that believe posts are left-leaning when maybe they aren’t. I think Matt would be doing himself a great service if he would bring someone on similar to Mr. Miller that speaks from the other side of the aisle every once in awhile to balance it out. It’s his site and he can do what he wants, and he’s also never made his political views hidden, but clearly many readers are irritated by the one-sided political posts. While it might not hurt readership now, Matt risks losing readership if a non-political alternative shows up. As someone who profited from the downfall of old media, he hopefully will recognize that soon.

  19. BaldyInMendo
    5:05 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    How did the Hillary media trolls infiltrate KSR? I figured u guys would have a more secure system. I hope all u guys whose lives have been altered for the worse because Matt includes some political discussion occasionally will be OK. I know it must be excruciating to HAVE to read. Lol…what pansies u are. If u don’t wanna read it, skip it.