Two more down and three primaries to go as Barack Obama continues his bumpy journey to the Democratic presidential nomination.
With Tuesday's split decision—a big victory by Obama in Oregon but an even bigger one by Hillary Clinton in Kentucky—Obama maintained his position as front-runner. But he also demonstrated a lack of appeal to important segments of the electorate, such as seniors, rural residents, and white working-class voters. Clinton won each group convincingly, at least in Kentucky.
With the final results for Tuesday still being tabulated, Obama had won a majority of pledged delegates selected by voters in primaries and caucuses and was 50 to 75 delegates short of the overall 2,026 majority needed for the nomination. Only the primaries in Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota remain, but the number of delegates in those states is relatively small. The deciding factor will be the nearly 800 superdelegates—elected Democratic officials and other activists whose votes are not tied to primaries and caucuses. With Obama ahead in pledged delegates from the state-by-state elections, the "supers" have been moving toward him, slowly but surely.
Speaking Tuesday night in Iowa, where he won the first-in-the-nation caucuses at the beginning of the year, Obama said, "It was in this great state where we took the first steps of an unlikely journey to change America." He praised Clinton for "her courage, her commitment to change, and her perseverance" but acted as if he had the nomination locked up. Focusing on Republican candidate John McCain, Obama said, "This year's Republican primary was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other, and that is the contest John McCain won."
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said Obama is a "talented political orator" but charged that the Illinois Democrat has displayed "bad judgment" by advocating big tax increases and "unconditional summits with rogue leaders" around the world.
For her part, Clinton refused to give up despite the long odds against her. In Louisville, she said she had won "an important victory" in Kentucky. She won the state by an overall margin of more than 30 percentage points and took 72 percent of the white vote to Obama's 22 percent. Obama won Oregon by 16 points, according to initial returns.
In a sign of serious trouble for Obama in the general election, if he is the nominee, two thirds of Clinton supporters in Kentucky said they would vote Republican or not at all in the fall rather than vote for Obama, according to CNN's exit polls.