Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Pyrrhic Victory

Yesterday, Senator Clinton won her second most lop-sided primary victory of the entire campaign, clobbering Senator Obama in West Virginia 67% to 27%.  Not only was the magnitude of her victory stunning, but exit polls raised doubts about Obama's ability to transcend race and win the support of working class white voters in November.  Senator Clinton pressed her case with the superdelegates and did interviews for all the evening news programs to convince voters that her candidacy was still alive.  By these accounts, this should have been a very good day for her, but events showed why she has hit her stride too late.

First, NARAL Pro-Choice America, a million-member non-profit which promotes abortion rights endorsed Senator Obama, citing the need to unify the party to elect a pro-choice candidate in November.  Then, Senator Obama announced the support of another 4 superdelegates (roundup spreadsheet updated) compared to only 1 which came out for Clinton.  This continues the pace of superdelegates that emerged after last week's North Carolina primary.  Finally, former Senator and Presidential candidate John Edwards gave his endorsement to Senator Obama during a speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The endorsement bounced all coverage of the West Virginia primary from cable news, meaning that Clinton did not get even one full favorable press cycle out of her victory.

Edwards's endorsement raises two questions:  why did he endorse now instead of earlier and what will the effect of the endorsement be?  I believe he endorsed now because this was his last chance to be a kingmaker.  Senator Obama is poised to claim a majority of the pledged delegates in next week's Oregon primary.  That, combined with the continued flow of superdelegates may make Obama the presumptive nominee soon.  By endorsing now, Edwards can put a period on this race before the final numbers come in.  He also has a chance to help Obama improve his standing with working class white voters in the Kentucky primary next week.  Senator Edwards may cause these Kentucky voters to take a second look at Senator Obama.  Obama will still have to win them over himself, however, as the 2004 Democratic ticket which featured Edwards as VP only carried 41% of the white vote.  

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