LEXINGTON, KY (AP): Fifty-two-year-old Harrodsburg businessman Arnold J. Uncommitted, who had never before run for public office, stood before a delirious crowd of supporters at his makeshift headquarters here last night, basking in his near-upset of President Obama's reelection campaign in Kentucky.
"Tonight," he said, "the people of the Bluegrass State have sent a message to the politicians in Washington, and we hope they hear it, loud and clear!"
In an overwhelmingly Democratic state, which usually supports Republican candidates for national office, Uncommitted’s last-minute insurgent campaign got 42 percent of the vote in yesterday's primary contest, a much higher figure than anticipated. (In nearby Arkansas, where Obama was opposed on the ballot by Tennessee attorney John Wolfe Jr., the president won the primary with 59 percent of the vote against Wolfe's 41 percent.)
Obama supporters have tended to downplay these results, saying that the president has always fought an uphill battle in the South, and that the number of white working-class votes cast in yesterday's contest probably reflects some discomfort with the nation's first African American president.
Uncommitted, however, looks at the same figures, and draws a different conclusion: "This was a referendum, among Democrats, on a Democratic commander in chief," he told reporters last night. "Kentucky is a border state, and Democrats here were fully supportive of Barack Obama in 2008. If I were David Axelrod, I would be worried."
Uncommitted pointed out that, in 1968, when Eugene McCarthy won 42 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary against a sitting president, Lyndon Johnson, "that was regarded as a 'victory' for McCarthy in the media and a dangerous sign of weakness for LBJ." (Johnson withdrew from the race some weeks later.)
Uncommitted was endorsed by no prominent Democrats in Kentucky, and he neither spent money nor campaigned in the state to earn his unprecedented share of the primary vote. Asked if he considered last night's vote a sign of momentum, Uncommitted said that he was hearing from "supporters across the country, and I am now prepared to reassess my political future."