Clinton Handily Defeats Obama in West Virginia
Victory Does Little to Tighten the Delegate Race
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton routed Sen. Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary yesterday, scoring one of her most lopsided victories of the long campaign even as she continued to battle overwhelming odds in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Clinton's resounding victory in a state that has slipped away from Democrats in the past two elections added fresh ammunition to her claim that she is better positioned than Obama to capture critical swing states in November. But the primary win may have come too late to have a significant impact on the trajectory of a nomination battle in which Obama has an almost insurmountable lead in delegates.
Clinton advisers hoped the size of Clinton's victory and signs of dissatisfaction with Obama among West Virginia voters would reopen a conversation about who is the stronger Democrat to take on Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, in the general election. They also hoped the results would tamp down talk that Clinton should consider dropping out of the nomination contest before the primaries end on June 3 to speed the process of uniting Democrats.
Clinton was winning with a margin of better than 2 to 1 in the popular vote in West Virginia. With 28 pledged delegates at stake, that margin would produce a net gain for Clinton of an estimated 12 delegates. That would only partially cut into the gains Obama has made in superdelegates since he easily won North Carolina and narrowly lost Indiana a week ago.
Former Democratic Party general chairman Roy Romer, who was handpicked for that job by former president Bill Clinton, announced his support for Obama yesterday.
Hillary Clinton claimed victory shortly after the polls closed last night.
Saying the nomination battle "isn't over yet," she told cheering supporters in Charleston that, as a result of her victory, "I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard."
Clinton argued that, by winning in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, New Hampshire and now West Virginia, she has demonstrated strength where it counts. "The White House is won in the swing states, and I am winning the swing states," she said.
Clinton also renewed her call to seat the delegations from Florida and Michigan and to include those delegates in the overall count for the nomination. "Under the rules of our party," she said, "when you include all 50 states, the number of delegates needed to win is 2,209, and neither of us has reached that threshold yet."
Obama did not appear publicly after the polls closed, but he pointedly looked past his expected defeat by holding a campaign event in the general-election battleground state of Missouri, saying it was a place "where we will compete to win when I am the Democratic nominee for president."
Campaigning in Cape Girardeau, Obama called this election "a chance to build a new majority of Democrats, independents and Republicans." He delivered pointed criticisms of McCain's record on taxes, Social Security and the Iraq war, asserting that the Republican's election would create four more years of "the Bush-McCain program."
Obama's campaign has said in the past that he has a greater ability than Clinton to expand the electoral map in November. But the results in West Virginia, coupled with exit polls that showed Democratic primary voters there with significant reservations about him, suggest that he could have a difficult time winning the Mountain State in the fall.