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Analysis: What Clinton's primary win means

By MARTIN SIEFF   |   May 14, 2008 at 12:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton's landslide victory over Sen. Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary Tuesday brings her no closer to winning the Democratic presidential nomination, but it is still a major blow for Obama.

The Democrats' Iron Woman has rusted badly, but she still packs a punch.

Clinton, D-N.Y., trounced Obama, D-Ill., by a far wider margin in West Virginia than he managed over her in North Carolina and confirmed the Democrats' nightmare that two of their biggest traditional constituencies that they must mobilize to win the presidency in November -- black voters and white working-class voters -- are now at odds.

Obama beat Clinton in North Carolina by 14 points -- a figure that was widely reported as a landslide. But in white working-class, hardscrabble West Virginia, Clinton annihilated him by 67 percent of the vote to 26 percent, a victory margin of 41 points.

It should also be remembered that despite the Obama campaign's tactical skill at sweeping the Democratic caucuses across the United States, Clinton has hammered him in almost every major industrial and large-population state except for his home state of Illinois and neighboring Wisconsin.

Clinton carried New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona and California. With all his momentum, all he could manage was a close second to her even in Indiana. It is extraordinary that a candidate who cannot even command anything close to a majority of his own party's core supporters in so many key states can still be regarded as its almost inevitable presidential nominee.

Clinton's victory showed that Obama remains a huge turnoff for white working-class voters, the children and grandchildren of the Nixon and Reagan Democrats whose defection from the Democrats over the past 40 years, primarily over moral and cultural issues, has ensured decades of conservative political dominance in America.

Obama's 20-year attendance at the church of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright clearly continues to dog him with voters, however much media pundits proclaim that he has put it behind him. And however how humble his own background and that of his wife, Michelle, they have shown themselves incapable of talking the talk and walking the walk with working-class voters struggling to make ends meet. Clinton, despite her own far more privileged background, has been much more successful at that.

However, even Clinton's victory in West Virginia could not restore her as a credible candidate. The day after her victory there, two more crucial superdelegates, Rep. Peter Visclosky of Indiana and Democrats Abroad Chair Christine Schon Marques, defected to Obama.

The liberal and centrist Washington establishments are also rapidly coalescing in their support for the junior senator from Illinois. Three former Securities and Exchange Commission chairmen -- William Donaldson, David Ruder and Arthur Levitt Jr. -- all came out for him on Wednesday, as did the legendary former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who broke the back of inflation under Presidents Carter and Reagan.

Even if Obama should improbably walk away from the race and cede her the nomination, Clinton now carries so much baggage and the burden of such a bungled campaign that she would be easy pickings for Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain of Arizona come November.

Clinton showed appalling incompetence and favoritism in her choice of campaign directors across the country. She let Obama's campaign sweep her in many smaller state primaries, and from Iowa on her team did not have a clue how to operate in caucuses. Her feminism fizzled with voters like a damp squib.

Several of her husband's most famous figures in his administration like former U.N. Ambassador and Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson defected to Obama, and former White House spokesman George Stephanopoulos, now chief political correspondent for ABC News, still predicts his victory.

Both Democratic front-runners, therefore, are hugely flawed candidates.

In a year when the United States continues to suffer casualties in the endless and unpopular continuing war in Iraq and the economic news is more ominous than it has been in at least 35 years, with global oil prices spiking at an extraordinary $126 a barrel, the presidency should be easy pickings for the main opposition party come November. Trust the Democrats to throw even that outcome into doubt.

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