Hillary: Why West Virginia Matters

Amanda Carpenter

5/13/2008 2:06:17 PM - Amanda Carpenter

Hillary Clinton is trying to make the case why Tuesday’s Democratic primary in West Virginia matters even though Clinton trails Barack Obama in delegates won, states won and the popular vote.

“It was West Virginia that made it possible for John Kennedy to become president,” Clinton told supporters in Clear Folk. “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.”

Clinton’s campaign argues no Democrat has won the presidency without carrying West Virginia since 1916 and she has a better chance of winning swing states, like West Virginia, in the general election than Obama.

“Sen. Clinton has already won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan,” said a memo released by the Clinton campaign Tuesday. “With a win in West Virginia, Sen. Clinton will have once again proven her greater ability to win in the key swing states.”

Clinton is heavily favored to win the Mountain State primary, where there are 39 delegates at stake.

According to the Associated Press Obama has 1,874 total convention delegates to Clinton’s 1,697. To secure the Democratic nomination outright, a candidate must reach 2,025 delegates. If neither candidate gets the 2,025 delegates, the party’s superdelegates will pick the nominee. The New York Times “delegate calculator” says if the election comes to that, Clinton will need to secure more than 89 percent of the remaining unpledged superdelegates, while Obama would only need 11 percent of the remaining unpledged superdelegates.

As the Democratic primary season wanes, the chances of Clinton’s catching up to Obama in the delegate count are dwindling. After West Virginia, contests in Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota are the only remaining primaries. Combined, those states offer 235 remaining delegates.

Clinton’s advisers seem to recognize Obama’s likelihood of securing the nomination but are pledging to fight on until he has officially won. “Senator Clinton is not a quitter,” said Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon. “Until we have a nominee, we don’t have a nominee,” he said.

Obama is largely ignoring the West Virginia primary by not even campaigning in the state Tuesday. He scheduled a trip to Missouri, a move interpreted as a pivot towards the general election instead. Additionally, he will not be making any type of formal address after the West Virginia results are tallied.

Obama plans to campaign in Florida next week.