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Clinton Beats Obama in West Virginia

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THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - May 15, 2008
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Clinton Beats Obama Handily in West Virginia
By Patrick Healy
The New York Times

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won a lopsided victory on 
Tuesday over Senator Barack Obama in the West Virginia 
primary, where racial considerations emerged as an 
unusually salient factor. Mrs. Clinton drew strong support 
from white, working-class voters, who have spurned 
Mr. Obama in recent contests. 

The number of white Democratic voters who said race had 
influenced their choices on Tuesday was among the highest 
recorded in voter surveys in the nomination fight. Two in 
10 white West Virginia voters said race was an important 
factor in their votes. More than 8 in 10 who said it 
factored in their votes backed Mrs. Clinton, according 
to exit polls. 

With Mr. Obama solidly ahead of Mrs. Clinton in the 
delegate fight, the West Virginia results are unlikely 
to hurt Mr. Obama's chances of winning the nomination. 
A strong Clinton victory in another general election 
battleground state like her victories in Ohio and 
Pennsylvania could raise fresh questions about Mr. Obama's 
ability to carry swing states in a contest against Senator 
John McCain. 

With 92 percent of the precincts reporting, Mrs. Clinton 
had 67 percent of the vote and Mr. Obama had 26 percent. 
John Edwards, who pulled out of the race but whose name 
remained on the ballot, had 7 percent. 

The surveys showing a strong racial component in the 
West Virginia voting suggest that Mr. Obama would face 
pockets of Democratic resistance if he becomes the first 
black nominee of the party. Although he has argued that 
he could broaden the Democratic base in the fall, 
given his popularity with independents and strong showing 
in traditionally Republican states like Colorado and 
Virginia, the Clinton camp has pointed to his modest 
support from white voters and blue-collar workers as 
weak links for him. 

Obama supporters accused Mrs. Clinton of playing the race 
card last week when she said she had more support among 
"white Americans" than he did. However blunt she was, 
white and financially struggling voters in West Virginia 
and in Kentucky, which votes next week and which Mr. Obama 
has all but conceded, have become a major force keeping her 
in the race. 

"There are some who have wanted to cut this race short," 
Mrs. Clinton said at a victory party in Charleston, W.Va., 
where the crowd at one point chanted, "It's not over!" 
"I am more than ever determined to carry on this campaign 
until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard."

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In promising to press forward until the June 3 end of the 
nominating contests, Mrs. Clinton faces daunting math. 
Coming into Tuesday, Mr. Obama needed 150 delegates to 
reach the 2,025 required for the nomination. 

Even if Mrs. Clinton won all the delegates in the remaining 
contests, a practical impossibility, she could not gather 
the delegates needed to win the nomination. Her fading 
hopes rest in seating the Florida and Michigan delegations. 
Those delegations have been barred from the convention 
because the states held primaries before party rules 
allowed. Mrs. Clinton also hopes for a larger share of 
superdelegates than she has been accumulating. 

The West Virginia results raised troubling signs for 
Mr. Obama. Although exit polls in other states have 
indicated that many Clinton supporters, including many 
whites, would back him in the fall, more than half of 
West Virginia voters said they would be dissatisfied if 
Mr. Obama won the nomination, according to the surveys by 
Edison/Mitofsky. 

As the Clinton campaign noted in a strategy memo on 
Tuesday, no Democrat has won the White House without 
winning West Virginia since 1916. Bill Clinton carried 
it in 1992 and 1996. Al Gore and John Kerry lost the 
state in 2000 and 2004, respectively. 

Mrs. Clinton seized on the West Virginia results in an 
area where she needs particular help, fund-raising. 
Roughly $20 million in debt despite $11 million in personal 
loans from Mrs. Clinton, her campaign sent a text message 
to supporters' cellphones less than an hour after the polls 
closed hailing the victory and urging them to donate at 
her Web site. A similar pitch arrived by e-mail two minutes 
later. "With your help, I'm going to carry the energy of 
tonight's victory into the next contests in Kentucky and 
Oregon," Mrs. Clinton wrote in the e-mail message, 
referring to the primaries on May 20. "You have worked 
your heart out, put yourself on the line for what you 
believe in and given generously. And I'm not about to turn 
my back on you." 

Mr. Obama, who largely skipped campaigning in West Virginia 
and spent Tuesday in another battleground, Missouri, said 
at a campaign event there he was confident he could unify 
the party as the nominee. 

"There is a lot of talk these days about how the Democratic 
Party is divided," Mr. Obama said. "But I'm not worried, 
because I know that we'll be able to come together quickly 
behind a common purpose. There's too much that unites us 
as Democrats. There's too much at stake for our country." 

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Mrs. Clinton's campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, said in 
an interview Tuesday night that despite the heavy debt, 
"we will have the money to play in the next three weeks" 
until June 3. 

Mr. McAuliffe said Mrs. Clinton had expressed a willingness 
to lend more money if she believed that it would help but 
that she had not reached that conclusion. "We haven't had 
that discussion," he said. 

For all of Mrs. Clinton's efforts, Mr. Obama continued to 
outpace her in the battle for superdelegates, the party 
leaders who have votes on the nomination. He picked up four 
by midday. 

In a sign of the diminished optimism in the Clinton camp, 
a staunch loyalist, James Carville, said Mr. Obama would 
probably be the Democratic nominee. 

"I think its likely Obama is the nominee, but not certain," 
said Mr. Carville, the Democratic strategist who worked 
for Mr. Clinton in the 1992 campaign and is close to the 
couple. "I would have preferred another result, but I'm 
going to be for him." 

"Everybody is going to be with Obama," Mr. Carville added, 
referring to the Clinton staff and supporters. "I have an 
undated check written out for Obama. I'll send it when 
this is over." 

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According to the West Virginia surveys, 95 percent of the 
Democratic primary voters were white, 70 percent did not 
graduate from college, and 54 percent had household incomes 
less than $50,000. 

More than 6 in 10 West Virginia voters said the economy 
was the most important issue facing the country, and two-
thirds of them backed Mrs. Clinton. Nine in 10 voters said 
the economic slowdown had affected them, including nearly 
half who said they were affected a great deal. Mrs. Clinton 
was supported by about three-quarters of those most 
affected. 

She also won the support of most voters younger than 30, a 
group that has typically voted heavily for Mr. Obama. The 
New Yorker also edged out Mr. Obama among college graduates 
and higher-income voters, also groups Mr. Obama has relied 
on. 

Some exit polls showed mistrust about Mr. Obama, a 
relatively rare finding in Democratic primaries. Half of 
voters said Mr. Obama shared the controversial views of 
his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. More than 
half said Mr. Obama was not honest and trustworthy, and 
most also said he did not share their values. 

When asked to select from four candidates' qualities that 
mattered most in voting, nearly half the voters said 
bringing about change was paramount. Nearly one in four 
said having the right experience was most important. Less 
than two in 10 chose the fact that the candidate cared 
about people like them, and one in 10 decided based on 
the ability to win in November. 

--------

Dalia Sussman contributed reporting.

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