Clinton wins W.Va.

Obama still nomination leader
May 13, 2008 8:40:56 PM PDT
It was a landslide victory for Sen. Hillary Clinton Tuesday night.It was no surprise that she defeated Sen. Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary. But is it too little, too late?

Obama's campaign has already switched into the general election campaign mode, taking on Republican John McCain.

West Virginia's another blue collar swing state that, like Ohio and Pennsylvania, sends a resounding vote of no confidence in Obama.

And that's prompting Clinton to say that she's in the race until the end and to plead with super-delegates to reassess their growing preference for Obama. Clinton says Obama may have the math. But she has the momentum and the edge in the toss-up states.

Clinton's not rubbing it in because she doesn't have to. The voters of West Virginia do it for her by sending Obama a very tough message in the exit polls where one in five voters say that race is factor in their decision. Fifty percent believe Obama shares the views of his inflammatory former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Fifty percent have doubts about Obama's honesty and trustworthiness. And 35 percent of Clinton supporters say they'll vote for John McCain if Obama's the Democratic nominee.

All of which explains why Clinton is vowing to stay in the race and asking super-delegates to nominate the best candidate, not the winner of the delegate race.

"I'm more than ever determined to carry on in this campaign until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard. The White House is won in the swing states, and I am winning the swing states," said Clinton.

Obama's ignoring Tuesday night's results as he starts to campaign in the November battleground states, like Missouri and Michigan. And he is trying to reassure all of the super-delegates, including the 30 who've endorsed him in the last week to clinton's two, that the party will be united this fall.

"That's why I'm running for president. Washington has failed the American people," said Obama.

Obama's favored in three of the last five contests - Oregon, Montana and South Dakota. Clinton has an edge in Kentucky and Puerto Rico. But that's not enough. She's got to run the table or Obama's the nominee. And the question then is: will she be the VP candidate?

She coupled praise with Obama with a pledge to persevere in a campaign in which she has become the decided underdog. "This race isn't over yet," she said. "Neither of us has the total delegates it takes to win."

"This is our chance to build a new majority of Democrats and independents and Republicans who know that four more years of George Bush just won't do," Obama said in Missouri, which looms as a battleground state in November.

"This is our moment to turn the page on the divisions and distractions that pass for politics in Washington," added the man seeking to become the first black presidential nominee of a major party.

With votes from 23 percent of West Virginia's precincts counted, Clinton was winning 63 percent of the vote, to 30 percent for Obama.

Interviews with West Virginians leaving their polling places suggested Clinton's victory could be as overwhelming as any she has gained to date, delivered by an overwhelmingly white electorate comprised of the kinds of voters who favored her in past primaries. Nearly a quarter were 60 or older, and a similar number had no education beyond high school. More than half were in families with incomes of $50,000 or less, and the former first lady was wining a whopping 69 percent of their votes.

Clinton won at least 15 of the 28 delegates at stake in West Virginia, with 13 more to be allocated.

That left Obama with 1,875.5 delegates, to 1,712 for Clinton, out of 2,025 needed to clinch the nomination at the party convention in Denver this summer.

In her remarks, Clinton said, "I deeply admire Sen. Obama," but she added, "our case is stronger." She said she had won roughly 17 million votes in the primaries and caucuses to date.

Clinton arranged a meeting with superdelegates for Wednesday. About 250 of them remain publicly uncommitted.

The delegate tally aside, the former first lady struggled to overcome an emerging Democratic consensus that Obama effectively wrapped up the nomination last week with a victory in the North Carolina primary and a narrow loss in Indiana.

He picked up four superdelegates during the day, including Roy Romer, former Democratic Party chairman.

"This race, I believe, is over," Romer told reporters on a conference call. He said only Clinton can decide when to withdraw, but he added: "There is a time we need to end it and direct ourselves to the general election. I think that time is now."

Clinton and Obama briefly shook hands on the Senate floor Tuesday after interrupting their campaigns for a few hours to vote on energy-related bills.

In his appearance in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Obama sketched the case against McCain. "For two decades, he has supported policies that have shifted the burden onto working people. And his only answer to the problems created by George Bush's policies is to give them another four years to fail," he said.

Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for McCain, said in response that Obama's rhetoric showed "more of the same negative, partisan politics that have paralyzed Washington for too long. Barack Obama talks about change and bipartisanship, but he has never showed the leadership needed to bridge party divides."

Clinton had spent parts of several days campaigning in West Virginia in search of victory.

She refrained from criticizing Obama directly, but had a cautionary word nonetheless for party leaders who seemed eager to pivot to the fall campaign. "I keep telling people, no Democrat has won the White House since 1916 without winning West Virginia," she said at Tudor's Biscuit World in the state's capital city.

Obama was in the state on Monday, but it was clear he was looking beyond the primary.

He said several days ago he expected Clinton to win by significant margins in West Virginia and then in Kentucky, which holds its primary next week. He devoted more time to Oregon, which also holds a primary next week, and announced plans to campaign in several other states that loom as battlegrounds in the fall against McCain.

Among them are Florida and Michigan, two states that held early primaries in defiance of national Democratic Party rules. The two combined have 44 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, and Obama has not yet campaigned in either.

Obama also broke from his usual practice by wearing a flag pin on his suit jacket. He told several thousand people at the Charleston Civic Center that patriotism means more than saluting flags and holding parades.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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