Posted: May 20, 2008 12:05 PM
Clinton Eyes Likely Ky. Win; Obama Aims for Delegate Milestone
Seeking to build on last week’s win in West Virginia, Sen. Hillary Clinton has campaigned hard in Oregon and harder in Kentucky, where she is expected to defeat her Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama,. Despite her optimism, Obama hopes to claim a majority of all pledged delegates to the convention after Tuesday’s contests.
Recent polls show Clinton holding a strong 58 to 29 percent lead over Obama in Kentucky while the two are in a closer race for Oregon voters, furthering the tricky math that has become the hallmark of the extended Democratic contest.
Oregon holds 52 delegates and Kentucky 51, and Obama needs only 17 more to reach the majority of the 3,253 pledged delegates available, the Huffington Post reported. With most polls showing Obama leading in Oregon’s mail-in contest, Obama is expected to win many more than the 17 needed.
Analysts in Oregon say that beyond hitting the pledged delegate number, the Beaver State very well may end up in the Obama column.
“Oregonians seem to like the cool, cerebral type,” Oregon pollster Tim Hibbitts told Politico.com. “They liked Harding. They liked McCarthy. They liked McGovern. They seem to like that kind of Democrat. And, without putting an ideological implication on it, I think that Obama stylistically appeals to Oregonians.”
Rather than holding his election night rally in Kentucky, Oregon or an upcoming voting state, Obama will return Tuesday to Des Moines, Iowa, where his caucus win in early January kicked started the momentum his campaign has enjoyed during the nominating race.
The majority of pledged delegates does not equal the nomination, however, since all of the Democratic Party’s super delegates must be accounted for. Currently, Obama leads Clinton 305 to 278 in super delegate counts, and clinching the nation’s pledged delegate majority may help Obama to convince the 278 uncommitted super delegates he is the more electable candidate.
Clinton, however, has pledged to continue to campaign despite Tuesday’s numbers, pegging her hopes on the super delegates and the possible inclusion of delegates from Florida and Michigan.
A major win in Kentucky could help the New York senator convince uncommitted super delegates of her sway with older, blue-collar, white voters, a demographic many say the eventual Democratic nominee will need when battling Republican candidate Sen. John McCain.
Kentucky will also be the first important litmus test to determine whether the endorsement of former Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards last week will help Obama fill the demographic gap with rural, white voters who have been favoring Clinton.
Despite the continued competitiveness of the Democratic race, both candidates recently shifted their focus from attacks on one another to criticisms of McCain — in Obama’s case — and appeals to the Democratic National Committee, in Clinton’s. Both candidates are wary of causing deepening divisions among their party.
“Both sides have declared an effective cease-fire as they prepare to bring the party together for a general-election campaign against Sen. John McCain,” politics reporter Dan Balz wrote in the Washington Post.
Still, Clinton appears ready to continue to battle for the representation of the nullified pledged delegates in Michigan and Florida — both states she won — which were stripped of their delegates as punishment for holding early nomination contests.
“While (Clinton) presses forward, aides say she is determined neither to be pushed from the race prematurely not to be seen as doing anything to damage Obama’s prospects of winning in November if he emerges as the nominee,” Balz reported. “Her campaign team believes that is the best way to bring the party together as quickly as possible once the nomination contest is over.”
Similarly, the Obama camp continues to aim at the Republican rival without joining the scores of Democrat party leaders who are pushing for her concession.
“His aides insist that he is mindful of doing nothing to suggest impatience with Clinton or to signal that she should end her candidacy before she is ready,” according to the Post.
Oregon is a mail-in voting state, so officials will need to tabulate the thousands of ballots already sent in. Kentucky polls opened at 6 a.m. local time and officials reported few voting problems.
Scott Mendel, a 54-year-old firefighter who voted at a Methodist church in Louisville, told the Associated Press it was a hard decision between the two Democratic candidates, but he chose Obama.
“It’s more about who you can trust and who can do a good job,” Mendel said.