Hillary Clinton won an overwhelming victory in West Virginia's Primary last night. But that victory in the heart of her demographic base did nothing to change the fact that the party's nominee will be Barack Obama.
Obama added at least seven new pledged delegates in West Virginia, brining his magic number to clinch the nomination down to 143. After his victory in North Carolina and virtual tie in Indiana, Obama needed 183 more delegates to cross the 2025 majority set by DNC rules. Since then he has gained 40 delegates and now leads Clinton in super delegates by 12 according to RealClearPolitics.com.
Several other key developments:
* Obama now needs only 17 additional pledged delegates to have an absolute majority of all pledged delegates. He will pass that mark next Tuesday when 103 delegates are at stake in Oregon and Kentucky. At that point many additional super delegates have indicated they will declare for Obama. By this time next week, Obama's magic number will be well into the double digits. It is likely that he will clinch the nomination by the end of the month. It is almost certain he will do so within days of the final primaries on June 3rd.
* While Clinton's win in West Virginia was impressive it should be placed into context. West Virginia is populated with a high percentage of older, non-college, white voters -- Clinton's strongest base of support. The impact of her overwhelming victory there is limited by the state's small size. It is the 13th smallest state -- only slightly larger than Idaho -- and represents .6% of the nation's population. That's why it has only 28 delegates, compared to North Carolina's 115.
* When it comes to blow outs, Obama has won 21 contests by more than 20% -- Clinton only 3 (West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arkansas).
* Even if Clinton were to win 65% of the 189 remaining pledged delegates (which she has no chance of doing), Obama would only need one of every three super delegates remaining today. In fact of course, he actually leads Clinton both in overall super delegates and number of super delegates he has picked up in each of the weeks since Super Tuesday.
* While West Virginia was another reminder that Clinton does has more appeal than Obama among lower income whites, the Washington Post/ABC Poll released yesterday shows how much that is offset by his much greater strength among the independent voters who will mainly decide the fall presidential race. The poll showed Obama leading McCain with this key group by nine points -- 51% to 42%. Clinton led McCain by only 3 points, 49% to 46%.
* The best news for Obama last night came from Mississippi. Democrat Travis Childers victory in Mississippi's first district special election demonstrated conclusively the ineffectiveness of Republican attempts to make Obama a negative for Democratic house candidates.
President Bush won the first district by 25% in 2004. The former Republican incumbent (Roger Wicker) won reelection in 2006 by 66%. Yet Childers won with a healthy 54% to 46% victory -- even after the National Republican Campaign Committee devoted almost $1.3 million of its scarce dollars trying to "tie" Childers to Obama.
It had tried the same tact in Louisiana where Democrat Don Cazayoux was also successful in taking a seat that had been in Republican hands for 3 decades.
And earlier this year, when Democrat Bill Foster won an Illinois special election to succeed retiring former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, he recruited Obama to make his closing pitch in a TV commercial.
As much as they wish it were true, Obama will not hurt Democratic candidates in down ballot races -- even in very conservative districts. In fact in many cases just the opposite is true. By mobilizing huge numbers of young people and African American voters in November, he will make it more likely that Democrats take an increasing number of Congressional seats in former Republican strongholds - especially in the South.
My apartment in Washington is next door to the Republican National Committee. As I walked by this morning, I could almost feel the whole place quaking in its boots.
Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight. How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.