Now the underdog, Clinton looks for win in W.Va.

By: AP
By: AP

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton collided with Barack Obama in the West Virginia primary on Tuesday, persisting in the Democratic presidential race despite dwindling odds and a lengthening delegate deficit.

Obama campaigned lightly in the state, conceding defeat in advance while looking ahead to the Oregon primary later in the month and the fall campaign against John McCain, the Republican nominee-in-waiting.

West Virginia had 28 delegates at stake, to be awarded proportionally according to the popular vote.

Obama began the day with 1,875.5 delegates, to 1,697 for Clinton, out of 2,025 needed to clinch the nomination at the party convention in Denver this summer.

The delegate tally aside, the former first lady struggled to overcome an emerging Democratic consensus that Obama effectively wrapped up the nomination last week with a victory in the North Carolina primary and a narrow loss in Indiana.

In the days since, close to 30 superdelegates have swung behind Obama, evidence that party officials were beginning to coalesce around the first-term Illinois senator who is seeking to become the first black to win a major party presidential nomination. Three of his new supporters formerly backed Clinton, who surrendered her lead in superdelegates late last week for the first time since the campaign began.

The former first lady spent parts of several days campaigning in West Virginia in search of victory.

She refrained from criticizing Obama directly, but had a cautionary word nonetheless for party leaders who seemed eager to pivot to the fall campaign. "I keep telling people, no Democrat has won the White House since 1916 without winning West Virginia," she said at Tudor's Biscuit World in the state's capital city.

Obama was in the state on Monday, but it was clear he was looking beyond the primary.

He said several days ago he expected Clinton to win by significant margins both in West Virginia and Kentucky, which holds its primary next week. And on Monday, he tried to set the bar of expectations exceedingly low, suggesting that anything above 20 percent would constitute a good showing.

He devoted more time to Oregon, which also holds a primary next week, and announced plans to campaign in several other states that loom as battlegrounds in the fall against McCain.

Among them are Florida and Michigan, two states that held early primaries in defiance of national Democratic Party rules. The two states combined have 44 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, and Obama has not yet campaigned in either.

Obama also broke from his usual practice by wearing a flag pin on his suit jacket. He told several thousand people at the Charleston Civic Center that patriotism means more than saluting flags and holding parades.

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