May 20, 2008
(AP) - Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Kentucky
primary Tuesday, a victory of scant political value in a Democratic
presidential race moving inexorably in Barack Obama's direction.
The two rivals also collided in Oregon's unique vote-by-mail contest, and Obama predicted he would finish the night with a majority of all delegates at stake in the 56 primaries and caucuses on the campaign calendar.
Interviews with Kentucky voters leaving their polling places showed almost nine in 10 ballots were cast by whites, and the former first lady was winning their support overwhelmingly.
Kentucky had one of the least liberal electorates of 33 competitive Democratic primaries that had exit polls this year - only about a third of voters claimed that label. In contrast, Oregon was among the most liberal, with close to six in 10 voters in the state's Democratic balloting taking that designation. In most primaries to date, Clinton has done better with more conservative voters, Obama with those who are more liberal.
Before vote-counting began, Obama had 1,917 delegates, little more than 100 shy of the 2,026 needed to become the first black presidential nominee of a major party. The former first lady had 1,722.
Regardless of the results of the night's two primaries, Obama decided to mark a victory of sorts. He arranged an evening appearance in Iowa, site of his critical Jan. 3 caucus triumph, to claim a majority of the delegates at stake in all 56 contests on the campaign calendar.
"The question then becomes how do we complete the nomination
process so that we have the majority of the total number of delegates, including superdelegates, to be able to say this thing's over," Obama told The Associated Press in an interview.
Clinton looked for a consolation for the strongest presidential campaign of any woman in history. She hoped to finish with more votes than her rival in all the contests combined, including Florida and Michigan, two states that were stripped of their delegates by the national party for moving their primary dates too early.
Campaigning with his wife in Kentucky, former President Clinton
dismissed Obama's inevitable claim on pledged delegates.
"There won't be tonight, unless you decapitate Michigan and Florida, which violates our values and is dumb politics," Bill Clinton said.
Kentucky, where Hillary Clinton concentrated much of her efforts in recent days, had 51 convention delegates at stake.
Oregon, where Obama invested his time and drew a crowd estimated
by police at 75,000 over the weekend, had 52. The state also had the distinction of staging the only contest without a designated polling day. Instead, under a vote-by-mail system, election officials tallied all ballots received by 11 p.m. EDT on primary day.
The only primaries remaining are Puerto Rico, on June 1, followed two days later by South Dakota and Montana.
Increasingly, Obama has been concentrating his campaign on John
McCain, the Republican nominee-in-waiting, rather than on Clinton.
The former first lady, too, has jettisoned the sharp attacks against Obama that characterized the race only a few weeks ago, although she bristled on Monday at his decision to focus on the fall campaign. "You can declare yourself anything, but if you don't have the votes, it doesn't matter," she said in an interview with an Oregon television station.
Even so, there was no shortage of signs that the closest Democratic nominating campaign in a generation was reaching its final stages after drawing more than 33 million voters to the polls and shattering numerous turnout records along the way.
As recently as May 6, Obama trailed Clinton among superdelegates, the officeholders and party leaders who will attend the national convention by virtue of their positions.
But in the days following his convincing victory in the North Carolina primary and his narrow defeat in Indiana, Obama has gained the support of at least 50 superdelegates and taken the lead in that category. Clinton has gained nine over that period.
Obama also has picked up the endorsements of former Sen. John
Edwards, who dropped out of the race in the early going, two labor
unions and NARAL Pro-Choice America. The abortion rights advocacy
organization had supported Clinton throughout her political career.
Fundraisers for the two campaigns have held quiet discussions on
working together in the fall campaign.
Additionally, Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod, disclosed he had contacted Clinton's former campaign manager about joining forces for the general election. Patti Solis Doyle confirmed what she called informal conversations about how she might help the Illinois senator if, as expected, he secures the presidential nomination.