A.J. WADE, a lifelong Democrat and one of three elected commissioners who run Hardy County in West Virginia, fiddles with his bolo tie as he tries to explain the results of his party’s presidential primary, back in May. “People here”, he says, “would have voted for Mickey Mouse if he’d been on the ballot.” The fictional rodent was not running, however, so they ended up supporting a much less appealing candidate: Keith Judd, a convict serving a 17-year sentence for extortion in a Texan jail. Mr Judd won 58% of the vote in Hardy County to Barack Obama’s 42%.
Mr Judd’s victory was not a freak result: Democrats in a further nine counties in West Virginia judged a resident of the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana a better standard-bearer for their party than the current occupant of the White House. Mr Obama did win the state overall, but not exactly resoundingly: Mr Judd took 41% of the vote, enough to secure at least one delegate to the party’s national convention in September if any had registered on his behalf (none did).