Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Chase for Change 2008: West Virginia Edition

So last night was not a great for Obama, but it also wasn't unexpected. Last week many journalists predicted a 40 point blow-out and that's what we saw (67% - 26% was the final tally -though am I the only one wondering where the rest of the 7% went? The numbers added up roughly to 100% in every other primary). I'm sure Obama hoped to close the gap though and he failed to do so. I do note though that he got more votes last night than John McCain did :). I'm not sure he will win West Virginia but I'm confident that with the massive Democratic turnouts in every state in these primaries Democrats will turn out in November in large enough numbers in enough states to give him the White House.

That said, two things are clear after last night: Clinton will now almost certainly stay in until the last primary state has voted and Obama has to pick his VP very carefully with an eye to bringing in voters in states where he did not perform as well. Once the nomination race is officially over and assuming Obama wins (which is still extremely likely), I'll lay out my thoughts on who Obama's VP should be, but how these next few weeks play out I think will play a role in that, as it will be important to see if Obama does manage to do better in areas where he hasn't in the past.

I think it's absolutely terrible of Clinton to be focusing on how whites versus blacks vote and making any arguments versus Obama's candidacy on that basis, but Obama does need to do better in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida then he has in these primaries so hopefully his VP will help with that.

As for Clinton going forward, her victory speech was interesting. It had some good messages and good lines - the one about the woman who was born before women had the right to vote who cast an absentee ballot for Clinton in South Dakota literally from her death bed was a compelling story (though I didn't think the story of how an 11 year old boy was donating to her campaign was a particularly strong follow-up). Importantly she refrained from attacking Obama directly, but the speech did sound mostly like a final plea to superdelegates (in fact her speech said plainly they will decide the race) and a plea to be the VP if she loses (before North Carolina and Indiana I supported the idea as her as VP, but after the past week and some of her comments I have had second thoughts though I think an experienced woman definitely should be on the Democratic ticket). Though saying no Democrat was won the White House since 1916 without West Virginia ignores that Democrats owned the deep South and pretty much the opposite regions of the U.S. than they do today right up until the Nixon years (and Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are the only Democrats elected since then and Bill Clinton won with heavy vote splitting on the right). It was interesting though that she only said she would be in the race until the last state had voted (as opposed to the convention) and talked about how "we" will come back to West Virginia and win. I would say though the speech didn't focus enough on John McCain which I hope she will do more of if she's staying in the race.

I think at this point Clinton knows she won't win, but despite what so many were saying about her refusing to be VP it seems she wants to be on the ticket more than Obama wants her. No matter what though Obama would have to find some way to reach out to her supporters when it is all said and done, he will regret it if he doesn't.

So now it's on to Kentucky and Oregon, where we will see a repeat of West Virginia in one state but Obama should at least be able to cushion the blow with a win in another. It will all be over soon though...

UPDATE: John Edwards endorsing Obama tonight will certainly help towards bringing this race to a close.

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