What Today Means

Another primary, and another step in the long slow march towards eventually, one day, maybe, finding a nominee.

West Virginia is a state I freely admit to knowing very little about. Of course, when it comes to the 28 delegates it has at its disposal, there’s only one thing you need to know; Hillary Clinton is going to get the lion’s share of them.

Polling has pretty much made it clear that Obama doesn’t have a ghost of a chance in West Virginia, with Pollster’s numbers showing Clinton winning a 40-50 point margin of victory.

What impact will such a massive impact on the race have? Likely very little. Mathematically, West Virginia, like virtually every remaining state in the primaries, has a very low delegate yield and will likely not contribute much to popular vote totals. To give you an appreciation of the scope of a 40 point win in West Virginia, a 100% shutdown of Obama, wherein he does not pick up a single vote, would still result in Obama maintaining a triple digit pledged delegate lead over Hillary Clinton, and under a conservative off the top of my head estimate, a 200-300K lead in the popular vote.

Still, one could make the case that there may be a psychological impact based upon a symbolic victory. Unfortunately, the blow of this news has been softened, and we have seen, perhaps for the first time, the Obama campaign actually playing the game of lowered expectations here.

We have come full circle. Clinton is now playing up the significance of a small state, and Obama is playing the game of lowered expectations.

Further minimizing the effect of a symbolic victory is the word circulating around that an excited staffer is claiming the possibility of a 60-70 point win on behalf of Senator Clinton. Indeed, a sixty plus point margin of victory may slow the process some, but there are some added factors to take into account.

As has been discussed, Hilary Clinton is very limited in how she promotes the win in West Virginia, and even then, everything is going to ride on whether or not the media reports upon it in her favor.

Her limitations are informed by what sounds like a party consensus not to damage who is seen to be most likely to be the party’s nominee too much. To this degree, Clinton must be careful not to repeat her “white American’s” gaffe from last Friday. In fact, any negativity leveled against Obama in the slightest will likely result in another group of Super Delegates moving quickly to blunt Clinton’s momentum.

The other major factor here to think about is if Clinton finds the media reporting a Clinton-friendly narrative following the closing of the polls. I don’t think this is likely given two circumstances. The first is that many pundits have already declared Obama the winner, and much like CBS probably bit fingernails as opposed to unproject Clinton the winner, I’m going to guess that most pundits who already declared a winner are going to stick to that assessment unless Clinton manages a magical come from behind victory in the nation-wide delegate mathematics in order to protect their own reputations. The other is that the math would still not work in Clinton’s favor by a reasonable margin even in the best case scenario. Last week the media seemed to make it abundantly clear that math now matters, and West Virginia doesn’t have any tricks up its sleeve that will change that.

Thus, what will really come out of today’s contest won’t necessarily be the votes. Instead, the things I’m looking for are Hillary’s tone in her celebration speech and the flow of Super Delegates moving in one direction or the other.

The best case scenario for Clinton in West Virginia is one in which Obama is blunted based upon symbolic victories at least for a week.

But Oregon, a state predicted to go to Obama by a large margin, will in all likelihood put things back on track for Obama and kill whatever shortlived momentum Clinton can accrue in West Virginia. From there, it should be Obama all the way home.

(edited by DrGail)

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