"President Obama's idea is taking from the working people to give to the people who won't take care of themselves. It's redistribution of wealth," Rupe said. "I've always taken care of myself. You got these young girls who go out and get pregnant and then they get $1,500 a month for having a kid, so they have two."
On the other side of town, Adele Anderson was signing up for Medicaid at a public library. The white, middle-aged woman makes $10 an hour as a child-care provider; she also gets $86 a month in food stamps. She was unaware that Republicans voted to cut $40 billion over 10 years from what's called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. "Democrats are too liberal," Anderson said. "They just want to give handouts."
The disdain she and Rupe show toward living on the government dole at the very moment they are doing just that is typical in a state that distrusts Washington as much as it needs federal help.
Kentucky's anti-establishment fervor dates back at least to the Civil War. While sticking with the Union, the state sympathized, culturally and economically, with its Southern neighbors and was the second-to-last state to ratify the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Since the civil-rights movement, Kentucky has backed only Democratic presidential nominees who were fellow Southerners—Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.
In late May of 2008, even as Obama was on the verge of clinching the nomination, Kentucky Democrats overwhelmingly renounced the African-American by way of Hawaii, Indonesia, and Chicago in favor of Hillary Rodham Clinton. He lost the state by double digits to John McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012.
But even deeper than Kentucky's aversion to Obama is its desperation for healthcare. Nearly one of six Kentuckians is uninsured. The state rates first or near the top nationally in statistics on smoking, cancer deaths, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. In contrast to the slow and tumultuous rollout of the federal website under the new health care law, enrollment in the state-run exchange and Medicaid is surging in the Bluegrass State.
Just don't call it Obamacare. In Kentucky, a marketing campaign has cleverly branded it "kynect."
"It really is strategic," said Barbara Gordon, director of the state's division of social services, which is helping to oversee enrollment. "We've had events where people say, 'This sounds a whole lot better than that Obamacare!' We train our people not to use that word, and it's effective in breaking down that wall against President Obama."
They forgot to tell that, however, to the staffer at the California Square Apartments who announced one recent morning over the intercom: "Attention residents. The presentation for Obamacare will begin at 11:25."
Fewer than a dozen people straggled into the lounge of the predominantly black affordable-housing complex, despite the promise of a raffle. The prizes: a roll of paper towels, a jug of laundry detergent, and a bag of potato chips.