Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton routed Sen. Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary Tuesday, scoring one of her most lopsided victories of the long campaign even as she continued to battle overwhelming odds in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Clinton’s easy victory in a state that has slipped away from Democrats in the past two elections added fresh ammunition to her claim that she is better positioned than Obama to capture swing states in November. But the primary win may have come too late in a contest in which Obama has an almost insurmountable lead in delegates.
Clinton advisers hoped the size of the victory and signs of dissatisfaction with Obama among West Virginia voters would reopen a conversation about who is the stronger Democrat to take on Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. They also hoped the results would tamp down talk that Clinton should consider dropping out of the nomination contest before the primaries end on June 3. Clinton was winning by a margin of about 2 to 1 in the popular vote in West Virginia. With 28 pledged delegates at stake, that margin would produce a net gain for Clinton of an estimated 12 delegates. That would only partially cut into the gains Obama has made in superdelegates since he easily won North Carolina and narrowly lost Indiana a week ago.
Clinton claimed victory shortly after the polls closed Tuesday night.
Saying the nomination battle “isn’t over yet,” she told cheering supporters in Charleston that as a result of her victory “I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard.”
Clinton argued that, by winning in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, New Hampshire and now West Virginia, she has demonstrated strength where it counts. “The White House is won in the swing states, and I am winning the swing states,” she said.
She renewed her call to seat the delegations from Florida and Michigan, and include those delegates in the overall count for the nomination. “Under the rules of our party,” she said, “when you include all 50 states, the number of delegates needed to win is 2,209, and neither of us has reached that threshold yet.”
Heading into Tuesday’s primary, the Associated Press delegate count had Obama at 1,875 to Clinton’s 1,697, a lead of 178 delegates. The winner will need 2,025 delegates to capture the nomination unless a deal is struck to seat delegates from Michigan and Florida, although it is not likely that such a resolution would give Clinton enough extra delegates to affect the nomination race.
Five primaries remain: Oregon and Kentucky next Tuesday, Puerto Rico on June 1, and Montana and South Dakota on June 3. Together, those five contests will award 189 delegates.