Hillary Rodham Clinton cast her victory in Kentucky as an overwhelming vote of confidence Tuesday and said she’s still running for president not to demonstrate that she’s tough but to ensure that Democrats retake the White House.
“This continues to be a tough fight, and I have fought it the only way I know how — with determination, by never giving up and never giving in,” Clinton told supporters in Kentucky. Oregon also voted Tuesday, though, and Barack Obama won there, giving him a majority of the delegates elected in all 56 primaries and caucuses combined.
Clinton said she has pressed on in the race “not because I’ve wanted to demonstrate my toughness, but because I believe passionately that for the sake of our country, the Democrats must take back the White House and end Republican rule. … That’s why I’m still running and that’s why you’re still voting.”
In her lopsided Kentucky victory, Clinton defeated Obama among voters of all age groups and incomes, the college-educated and non-college-educated, self-described liberals, moderates and conservatives, according to interviews with voters. Obama did far better in Oregon, where a majority of voters called themselves liberal. He was winning nearly six in 10 whites, and he and Clinton were were evenly dividing the votes of working-class whites.
With just two weeks and three contests left in the primary season, it is doubtful that Clinton can close the delegate gap with Obama. While she has collected a number of wins in late primaries, Obama keeps gaining on her in the all-important race for convention delegates.
But the former first lady maintains that she still sees a path to victory by winning over the party leaders and elected officials known as superdelegates, whose support will be needed for either candidate to be clinch the nomination.
“Neither Senator Obama nor I will have reached that magic number when the voting ends on June 3,” she said. “And so, our party will have a tough choice to make — who’s ready to lead our party at the top of our ticket, who is ready to defeat Senator McCain in the swing states and among swing voters.”
The New York senator hopes a resounding win like Tuesday’s victory in Kentucky will help convince superdelegates that she is more viable as a general election candidate. It has become increasingly difficult argument to make, however, and Obama has slowly begun to play the role of the inevitable rival to Republican John McCain.
Obama and McCain have largely ignored Clinton in recent days as they clashed over foreign policy, and Obama’s campaign schedule is starting to include more stops in general election battleground states.
Clinton has argued that if the results of disputed primaries in Michigan and Florida are counted, she leads Obama in the popular vote. Clinton won both contests but the results were voided because the votes took place in January in violation of Democratic Party rules. The Democratic National Committee’s rules committee meets May 31 to consider its options on the Michigan and Florida delegations. Clinton has said both should be seated at the convention in August.
While campaigning in Kentucky and Oregon over the past several days, Clinton has been increasingly forceful in making her pitch to include the disputed results. She was expected to turn up the volume on Wednesday during several appearances in south Florida, and her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, said she was likely to travel to Michigan to do the same there.
Her husband, the former president, said at a campaign stop in Louisville on Tuesday that voiding the Michigan and Florida primary votes “violates our values and is dumb politics.”