Clinton counting on West Virginia win to stay in race

May 13th, 2008 - 11:01 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 13 (IANS) Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s expected sweeping victories over front runner Barack Obama in West Virginia Tuesday and Kentucky next week may just help keep her dying campaign alive a little longer. The likely big wins are unlikely to upset Obama’s applecart given his significant lead in total delegates, who would pick the party nominee to take on presumptive Republican candidate John McCain in the November presidential election.

With only 28 pledged delegates at stake in West Virginia Tuesday and another 51 up for grabs in Kentucky May 20, she would find it virtually impossible to catch up with Obama in pledged delegates as Democrats split the delegates in proportion to their votes.

The Illinois senator, who would be America’s first black president, has not only won more states, has more popular vote but is also winning the support of super delegates, key party officials holding the balance of power in the nomination process, since his sweeping victory in North Carolina and narrow loss in Indiana last Tuesday.

Obama now has the backing of 1,869 delegates, including 277 super delegates as against Clinton’s 1,697 with 273 super delegates. The backing of super delegates, who are not bound by primary results, is considered crucial as neither candidate is likely to reach the magic winning number of 2,025 by the end of primary season June 3.

As Clinton doggedly continued her campaign amid ever growing calls to quit the White House race, a new poll released Monday had Clinton drawing 60 percent of likely Democratic voters in West Virginia compared to Obama’s 24 percent, giving the former first lady a 34 point lead.

The Suffolk University Poll also shows Clinton holds a 70 percent approval rating among the state’s Democratic primary voters. Only half the state’s likely primary voters think Obama can beat McCain in a general election matchup.

In Kentucky, which votes May 20, a Research 2000 poll shows Clinton winning 58 percent of the vote to Obama’s 31 percent, giving her a 27 point lead.

Despite Clinton’s strength in the state, the poll suggests McCain would easily defeat both Democrats in November as the Vietnam War veteran holds a 25 point advantage over Obama and a 12 point lead over Clinton. Kentucky is considered a solidly Republican state, though former president Bill Clinton carried it twice.

During a campaign stop in West Virginia, Clinton Monday drew a parallel between her own campaign and John Kennedy’s 1960 White House run suggesting no Democratic presidential candidate can win without a victory in West Virginia.

“It was West Virginia that made it possible for John Kennedy to become president,” she said at a Clear Fork. “Now, John Kennedy didn’t have the number of delegates he needed when he went to the convention in 1960. He had something equally as important - he had West Virginia behind him, because it’s a fact that Democrats don’t get elected president unless West Virginia votes for you.”

“So I’m here today because I know what’s really going to matter tomorrow,” said Clinton. “It’s the votes of the people of West Virginia and if you will come out and honour me with your vote I will work my heart out for you.”

Clinton Campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe insisted Monday she will stay in the race until the last primary and predicted she will overtake Obama in the popular vote.

“We are going through to June 3,” McAuliffe said on MSNBC. “I can unequivocally tell you we are in until June 3.”

“We will move ahead in the popular vote. There are 1.1 million Democrats in West Virginia, there are 1.6 million in Kentucky, 2.4 million in Puerto Rico. We win by these huge margins, have good turnout there, we will pick up a significant amount of the popular vote,” McAuliffe added.

But with the Democratic nomination almost in his pocket, Obama already seems looking beyond to November’s fight with McCain. During a quick six-hour stop in West Virginia, instead of Clinton, Obama trained his guns on the Republican for his refusal to back a Democratic bill expanding education benefits for military veterans.

“There is an election here tomorrow. I am extraordinarily honoured that some of you will support me,” Obama told a rally. “I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton.”

Focusing his attention on general election battleground states, he would visit the swing states of Missouri, Florida and Michigan in the next week as he prepares for the general election, his campaign announced.

“Our schedule reflects the fact that we are still fighting for votes and delegates in the remaining contests but also that we are going to places that are going to be competitive in the fall,” Obama campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

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