But the outcome—in which Clinton swept nearly all demographic groups and won overall by a 2-to-1 margin—had much less impact on the overall race with Barack Obama than she and her strategists had hoped. Despite the margin, Clinton failed to gain much ground on her rival in delegates to the nominating convention this August in Denver.
As the final results were being tabulated, it appeared that Clinton would score a net gain of no more than a dozen delegates—with 20 going to Clinton and eight to Obama, under a system of proportional representation, with an additional 10 superdelegates to be determined separately. This left her substantially behind in the nomination race. Obama now has 1,883.5 delegates to Clinton's 1,717, according to the latest count by the Associated Press, with 2,025 needed for the nomination under current party rules.
But Geoff Garin, Clinton's chief strategist, said this morning that the West Virginia results should quiet calls for Clinton to drop out. He predicted that she will stay in the race at least until the final primaries conclude on June 3.
Tuesday night, Clinton praised Obama as a worthy contender and pledged to support him if he wins the nomination, but she promised to continue the fight. "The race isn't over yet," she told cheering supporters in Charleston, W.Va. She called herself "the strongest candidate" to defeat Republican John McCain in the general election.
Obama, recognizing that he would lose West Virginia, campaigned lightly there and devoted his time to other states. He told garment workers in Cape Girardeau County, Mo., Tuesday that it was time for a "new direction in Washington" as he turned his attention to the presumptive GOP nominee. "John McCain has decided that he is running for George Bush's third term in office," Obama said.
Clinton has only a few cards left to play in her effort to catch Obama. There are five contests left, with a total of 189 delegates—in Kentucky and Oregon next Tuesday; Puerto Rico June 1, and Montana and South Dakota June 3. She hopes to roll up big margins, especially in Kentucky and Puerto Rico, where she seems to be ahead. Obama, however, is strong in Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota.
Clinton's final move may be to challenge the Democratic National Committee's disqualification of all the delegates from Florida and Michigan, which held their primaries earlier than the DNC allowed. If all those delegates are counted—as Clinton wants, since she won the two disputed primaries—the magic number for a majority would be 2,209 delegates. This would give Clinton a last chance to overtake Obama if she won a big majority of the remaining superdelegates—party leaders whose votes aren't tied to caucuses and primaries. The DNC rules and bylaws committee will meet May 31 to consider the Florida and Michigan situation.
Garin said that even if the committee refuses to count all the disputed delegates, it will certainly count some of them, and that will increase the majority needed to attain the nomination, and keep Clinton's bid alive as she pursues superdelegates.