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In W.Va., Clinton's Disciples Persevere
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The women stood on the street, outlining a scenario in which Clinton could still win the nomination: big victories in several of the six remaining primaries, including West Virginia's. Public endorsements from John Edwards and Al Gore. Counting primary results from Michigan and Florida. A sudden and overwhelming tide of support from undecided superdelegates to establish her as the clear-cut nominee.
"It's doable, really," said Mary Bell, a 56-year-old retired lawyer from Shepherdstown. "We'll take it one week at a time, just like she's doing. Obama might not be tough enough for this job, and she's proving she's a fighter. It's the little things, like getting out on the street and showing support, that can help you win this campaign one day at a time."
They arranged themselves at the intersection in a way that no passerby could possibly ignore them. Lisa Florek, a 39-year-old from Charles Town, W.Va., held up two cardboard signs and chanted Clinton's name. Gerrie Nussdorf, a volunteer from New York, offered each driver a sticker.
Smith and Kuzma stood behind a 10-foot-long sign and listened to a developing pattern. Trucks headed out of town honked in support and encouragement. Compacts destined for the college or the nearby coffee shop slowed down and offered very different suggestions.
"Give up already," shouted a woman in a red jeep.
"Boo. Clinton's a loser," said a man in a blue sedan.
"What are you doing?" asked a passenger in a weathered Pontiac. "Didn't you hear Clinton already lost?"
After each insult, Smith and Kuzma glared straight ahead, venting to each other only after the drivers had pulled away.
"This just isn't very nice," Kuzma said. "These are some mean people."
"Every one of them is the same -- skinny kids who've never experienced anything but college," Smith said. "The more I'm involved, the angrier I get. Every call for her to get out of the race just incenses me. It makes me crazy. Who are you? Who in the world are you to tell this woman who's done so much that it's time for her to be quiet and sit down?"
In Shepherdstown, Obama and Clinton supporters have withdrawn into such tight cliques that reconciliation seems unlikely, some of the women said. Obama supporters damage yard signs; Clinton supporters take their complaints about unruliness to the local press. When Clinton visited Shepherd University for a rally Wednesday, a dozen students showed up with Obama signs and chanted before Clinton took the lectern.
"I don't recall any other primary where the other side has been a little bit abrasive like this," said Bell, the retired lawyer from Shepherdstown. "That's just their style, and it can sometimes come off as harsh."
As Bell stood on the corner, a young man leaving the university in a black pickup slowed down as he approached the intersection. Bell guessed that he was an Obama supporter, and she held up her sign and prepared for another insult or a pithy remark or some dismissive gesture.
The man rolled down his window and stopped in front of Bell.
"Hey," he said. "Keep fighting."
"Oh," Bell said. "Thanks. You can bet we will."