Hillary Rodham Clinton coasted to a large but largely symbolic victory in working-class West Virginia on Tuesday, handing Barack Obama one of the worst defeats of the campaign, yet scarcely slowing his march toward the Democratic presidential nomination. “The White House is won in the swing states.
Hillary Rodham Clinton coasted to a large but largely symbolic victory in working-class West Virginia on Tuesday, handing Barack Obama one of the worst defeats of the campaign, yet scarcely slowing his march toward the Democratic presidential nomination.
“The White House is won in the swing states. And I am winning the swing states,” Clinton told cheering supporters at a victory rally.
She coupled praise for Obama with a pledge to persevere in a campaign in which she has become the decided underdog. “This race isn’t over yet,” she said. “Neither of us has the total delegates it takes to win.”
Obama looked ahead to the Oregon primary later in the month and to the general election campaign against Republican John McCain, but the West Virginia defeat underscored his weakness among blue-collar voters, who will be pivotal in the fall.
“This is our chance to build a new majority of Democrats and Independents and Republicans who know that four more years of George Bush just won’t do,” Obama said in Missouri, which looms as a battleground state in November.
“This is our moment to turn the page on the divisions and distractions that pass for politics in Washington,” added the man seeking to become the first black presidential nominee of a major party.
With votes from 92 percent of West Virginia’s precincts counted, Clinton was winning 67 percent of the vote, to 26 percent for Obama, according to The New York Times.
Clinton’s triumph approached the 70 percent of the vote she gained in Arkansas, her best state to date. It came courtesy of an overwhelmingly white electorate comprised of the kinds of voters who have favored her throughout the primaries. Nearly a quarter were 60 or older, and a similar number had no education beyond high school. More than half were in families with incomes of $50,000 or less, and the former first lady was winning a whopping 69 percent of their votes.
Clinton won at least 16 of the 28 delegates at stake in West Virginia, and Obama won at least seven, with five more to be allocated.
That left Obama with 1,882.5 delegates, to 1,713 for Clinton, out of 2,026 needed to clinch the nomination at the party convention in Denver this summer. The Democratic win on Tuesday in a Mississippi special election increased by one the number of delegates needed to win the nomination.
-David Espo and Matt Apuzzo, The Associated Press