Hillary Clinton won a landslide victory last week in West Virginia.
It is likely that she will be similarly rewarded tonight by the voters of Kentucky, a state that neighbors West Virginia. Kentucky polls suggest that the New York senator could thump Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the leader in the race for the Democratic presidential nod, by a margin every bit as lopsided as she achieved in West Virginia.
Obama won’t feel much pain, however. He’s likely to win by a comfortable margin in Oregon and he is all but certain to accumulate enough additional support tonight so that he can finally claim to have won a majority of the pledged delegates — those chosen by voters in primaries and caucuses — to this summer’s Democratic National Convention.
Obama won’t formally declare victory this evening, even if his scheduled campaign appearance in the first caucus state of Iowa will symbolically stake the claim.
“I won’t be the nominee until we have enough (delegates) — a combination of both pledged delegates and superdelegates — to hit the mark,” the Illinoisan, who will probably finish the night s few dozen convention votes short of the 2,026 he needs to be nominated, says of his success in the race for the pledged delegates. “But what it does mean is that voters have given us the majority of delegates that they can assign. And obviously that is what this primary and caucus process is about.”
So what should we make of these late-stage wins by Hillary Clinton in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia, where the demographics have always favored her and where she was always expected to prevail.
Not a whole lot, at least if we take seriously the response of the most revered of all West Virginians.
Robert Byrd, the dean of the U.S. Senate and the man West Virginians have been sending to Washington since 1958, assessed the returns from last Tuesday and came to a conclusion.
Despite the sentiment that may exist for Clinton in his home state, Byrd is of the view that the election of a president is about the future of the nation and the world. The senior senator explained this week that he held off from making an endorsement earlier because he had “no intention of involving myself in the Democratic campaign for President in the midst of West Virginia’s primary election.”
“But,” the Constitution-toting senator added, “the stakes this November could not be higher.”
With that in mind, Byrd gave his endorsement to Obama.
“Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support,” said the senator who has been involved in Democratic politics long enough to have made the long transit from supporting segregation to supporting an African-American for president.
Byrd’s support for Obama is related to what for both men has been a signature stance in recent years: opposition to the war in Iraq.
Describing Obama as “a shining young statesman, who possesses the personal temperament and courage necessary to extricate our country from this costly misadventure in Iraq, and to lead our nation at this challenging time in history,” Byrd explained that, “As people all across this great nation know, I have been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Bush Administration’s misguided war in Iraq and its saber rattling around the globe. With the Bush Administration’s latest request to fund this on-going war in Iraq without any attempt to start bringing our troops home, the issue of the upcoming presidential contest has been weighing heavily on my heart. The loss of life continues and the sons and daughters of tens of thousands of American families remain in harm’s way every day.”
Leaving little doubt that it is Obama’s record of opposing the war that makes the Illinoisan preferable to Clinton, Byrd concluded, “After a great deal of thought, consideration and prayer over the situation in Iraq, I have decided that, as a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention, I will cast my vote for Senator Barack Obama for President.”