DRY FORK, W.VA. — The latest battleground in the altered presidential race is a battleground that has been dramatically altered over time – and that itself has altered American history substantially.
Amid the mountains and mines, the hollers and hillsides, the timberlands and trailheads, West Virginia has had an outsized influence on America for a state that is less than a tenth the size of Texas.
It has shaped the Civil War and the Cold War, given a distinct accent to the country’s food and folklore, added a surprising element to the country’s basketball and ski heritage – all to the twang of the distinctive country music that echoes through its “Almost Heaven” country roads.
Now West Virginia, which hasn’t played a central role in presidential politics for more than a half-century, is emerging as a dual laboratory: the first head-to-head confrontation between presumptive nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton even as it is the Petri dish for one of the last struggles between Ms. Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is continuing his campaign against all odds and most of the critiques of political professionals.
Most of all, however, the West Virginia battle shows how the American campaign has made an important transition, from the primary-and-caucus process just virtually completed on to the bigger contest, the November general election.
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