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2861Clinton Beats Obama in West Virginia

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  • Greg Cannon
    May 13 5:27 PM
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      http://blog.washingtonpost.com/livecoverage/2008/05/clinton_headed_for_big_win_in.html

      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
      tonight.

      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
      nominee.

      "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
      "Today" show.

      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