Hillary Clinton seems headed for her biggest win yet in the West Virginia primary Tuesday.
Her problem is that it probably will be too little, too late. Rival Barack Obama has worked up such a head of steam that even a colossal victory by Clinton in West Virginia is likely to be irrelevant in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Dominating the media over the weekend were stories that on Saturday, Obama surpassed Clinton in commitments from superdelegates—the party officials and activists who now hold the balance of power in deciding who will be the Democratic standard-bearer. By adding one delegate each from Utah, Ohio, and Arizona and getting two from the Virgin Islands to switch from Clinton, Obama reached 276 endorsements to Clinton's 271.5, according to the Associated Press. The roughly 250 remaining superdelegates are undecided or unannounced, but party veterans see a continuing trend toward Obama.
The margin is important because Clinton's dwindling hopes for the nomination have rested on her gaining a strong majority among the superdelegates, which now seems impossible.
That's why West Virginia, with only 38 delegates at stake, won't be pivotal even though Clinton enjoys a huge advantage there. The latest American Research Group poll released Friday had Clinton ahead of Obama by 66 to 23 percent. Clinton, a senator from New York, enjoys massive leads among seniors, women, whites, and working-class voters.
Clinton plans a final day of campaigning in West Virginia Monday, but she is clearly concerned that her chances are slipping. At a New York fundraiser Sunday, Clinton said, "Let's keep going. Stay with me. This has been a great adventure—let's make history." Seemingly acknowledging that the end is near, she added: "We're going to finish this nominating contest—what we will do—then we will have a nominee, and we will have a unified Democratic Party, we will stand together, defeat John McCain [the Republican candidate] in November, and go on to the White House."
But Obama, a senator from Illinois, has built up such a lead in overall delegates—1,864.5 to Clinton's 1,697—that he is only 160.5 delegates short of the 2,025 needed for the nomination, according to an AP tally released Sunday.
There are 217 pledged delegates available in the remaining six primaries in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota. Obama and Clinton are likely to split these contests, three-to-three, which will enable Obama to maintain his advantage.
For his part, Obama is campaigning minimally in West Virginia and is focusing on the later contests in Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota. Appearing in Oregon Sunday, Obama said it's time for him to focus on his differences with McCain, who, he said, has largely gotten a free ride from the media.