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Obama suffers defections in Ark. and Ky. primaries

 

President Obama headed toward wins in both primaries Tuesday in Arkansas and Kentucky, but suffered losses of about 40 percent of the vote in each contest against token opposition.

Over four in 10 Democratic voters in Kentucky's primary on Tuesday chose the "uncommitted" option versus President Barack Obama, who won the state's primary. 

And perennial candidate John Wolfe, Jr. took just about 40 percent of the primary vote versus Obama in Arkansas, according to early returns tabulated by the Associated Press. (Wolfe won't be awarded any delegates, either.) 

The president's performance in both contests carries no substantive importance; Obama has already scored the necessary delegates in previous caucuses and primaries to be re-nominated by Democrats, and he wasn't expected to win either Arkansas or Kentucky in the general election versus Mitt Romney.

But the primaries carry a degree of symbolic weight, if only to fuel Republicans' gawking about how an incumbent president could fare so poorly in primaries despite facing no meaningful opponent. 

Romney wins Kentucky, Arkansas primaries

Obama lost 65 of 120 counties in Kentucky to the uncommitted option, though most of those counties were lost by a slim margin, in some of the least populous counties in the state.

But Republicans have been especially eager to point toward the fact that Kentucky's primary is closed only to Democrats, meaning that some portion of the state's Democrats had to turn out at the polls (likely to participate in other contests on the ballot), and decide to explicitly oppose a president of the same party. 

Lessons learned from inmate's challenge to Obama in W.Va.

That was the same case in the West Virginia primary earlier this month, when convicted felon Keith Judd won about 41 percent in a similarly uncompetitive primary. 

But all three states — West Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas — are home to either Appalachian or white, rural poor voters with whom Obama has traditionally struggled and historically underperformed in 2008 versus other Democratic presidential candidates. Some political observers have suggested that Obama's race has unduly weighed on his prospects in those ares. Moreover, turnout in each contest was especially low, opening the door for swings in the vote.

The general election, though, won't generally be fought in states where these voters make up a large portion of the electorate, more likely making Tuesday's primary results a footnote to the 2012 campaign than a dominating theme.