Clinton Beats Obama in West Virginia
By Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) claimed an easy
victory over Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in West
Virginia's presidential primary today, a win that
increased the likelihood of her continued candidacy
but did little to alter her position as a decided
underdog in the race for the Democratic nomination.
Polls closed in the Mountain State at 7:30 p.m.
eastern time, and moments later the television
networks had called the race in Clinton's favor. The
former first lady entered the race the strong
favorite, and the latest polling suggested she would
win by a wide margin.
For Clinton, the win - while expected - will further
help her to justify remaining in the race despite her
drubbing by Obama last week in North Carolina and her
very narrow win in Indiana.
Less than an hour after being declared the West
Virginia winner, Clinton's campaign sent out a
fundraising email insisting the race was far from
over. "After tonight's tremendous victory here in West
Virginia, it's clear that the pundits declaring this
race over have it all wrong," Clinton wrote. "The
voters in West Virginia spoke loud and clear -- they
want this contest to go on."
Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), an Obama
supporter, dismissed the potential problems of the
clearly divided Democratic electorate -- arguing that
when faced with a choice between Obama and Republican
Sen. John McCain, many of these voters would side with
Obama. "Voters are going to have a very clear choice,"
Casey said in an interview on MSNBC.
Clinton and her advisers have insisted that the
contest is not yet over because neither she nor Obama
have secured the total of 2,025 delegates needed to
become the party's nominee. Those familiar with her
thinking believe she is likely to stay in the race
through at least June 3, when primaries in South
Dakota and Montana will bring the nomination contest
to a close.
The steady stream of superdelegates announcing their
support for Obama, however, diminished the impact of
Clinton's victory. Today alone, four superdelegates -
including former Democratic National Committee
Chairman Roy Romer - came out for Obama.
"The math is controlling," said Romer of his decision.
"This race, I believe, is over."
That storyline was pushed by Obama's campaign in a
memo distributed to reporters this afternoon. Obama's
campaign conceded not just West Virginia but also
Kentucky, which votes a week from today, to Clinton.
"But with 49 contests behind us and only six to go --
including several states where we expect to do well --
Barack Obama leads in pledged delegates, contest won,
and superdelegates," argues the memo.
While Clinton will likely emerge from West Virginia
with a double-digit gain among pledged delegates, she
still faces a major math problem. Entering today's
vote, Obama led Clinton in pledged delegates by 174
and had a 283-to-272.5 lead among superdelegates. In
the past week, Obama has added 27 superdelegates -
gains that effectively nullify Clinton's victory
In the face of such daunting odds, Clinton and her
campaign remained resolute that her victory in West
Virginia, when coupled with other primary wins in
Rust-Belt states like Pennsylvania and Ohio,
effectively make the argument that she is the stronger
Democratic candidates against Sen. John McCain
(Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential
"With a record turnout expected in today's primary,
West Virginia Democrats will make clear who they
believe is the strongest candidate to take on Sen.
McCain in the fall," reads a memo released by
Clinton's campaign Tuesday afternoon. The memo also
notes that no Democrat in the last 90 years has won
the White House without carrying West Virginia.
"I think Democrats across the country tomorrow will be
asking themselves why Senator Obama -- with all of his
money, with all of the great press, with voters being
told he was the inevitable nominee -- why did Senator
Obama lose West Virginia by 15 points or so?" Clinton
communications director Howard Wolfson asked on NBC's
Regardless of whether they believe she can win,
Democratic voters seem content to let Clinton remain
in the race through the end of the nomination fight.
Nearly two-thirds of Democratic voters said Clinton
should stay in the race in a recent Washington
Post/ABC News survey, and almost 80 percent of West
Virginia echoed that sentiment in exit polling,
according to Fox News Channel.
West Virginia is one of just six contests left in the
Democratic nomination fight. Kentucky and Oregon will
cast ballots next Tuesday, while Puerto Rico will hold
its primary on June 1. South Dakota and Montana will
close out the campaign on June 3.
May 13, 2008; 8:23 PM ET