When is a race not a race? Maybe when one of the contestants is already on his way to the medal podium while the other continues to sprint frantically alone around the track. That's the image that much of the mainstream media is portraying of the waning battle between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Believe it or not, there are still a few primaries to be decided, and Tuesday's (May 20) contests look to be another split between the Democrats, with Clinton predicted to grab the Kentucky primary by more than 25 points, while Obama is favored in Oregon, where he maintained a comfortable lead over his rival at press time.
In fact, Clinton's lead in the heavily white, blue-collar Bluegrass State (with 60 delegates at stake) is so big that Obama has hardly visited. According to The New York Times, he may actually spend Tuesday night savoring his expected Oregon victory (with its 65 pledged delegates and unusual mail-in voting procedure)in Iowa, where his improbable road to the possible Democratic nomination began way back in January with his upset caucus win.
Experts are predicting that with the combination of delegate pickups in the two states and the increasing tide of superdelegates coming his way, Obama will almost surely be able to claim the majority of the delegates once polls close Tuesday night, effectively ending Clinton's claim to the nomination. "A clear majority of elected delegates will send an unmistakable message," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe wrote in an e-mail Monday. "The people have spoken, and they are ready for change."
Clinton, of course, continues to argue that even though she trails Obama in pledged delegates and superdelegates, states won and popular vote, she is actually ahead in the latter category if you count the disputed votes in the Florida and Michigan primaries.
Despite seriously lagging behind Obama in fundraising and the growing drumbeat of voices calling for her to drop out, Clinton has vowed to stay in the race until the final pair of primaries on June 3 in Montana and South Dakota (a caucus will take place on June 1 in Puerto Rico). The Democratic National Committee's rules committee is slated to meet May 31 to discuss a solution to the disputed Michigan and Florida votes.
While the number 2,025 has been given throughout the primary season as the magic figure needed to clinch the nomination — which does not include the Florida or Michigan delegates — Clinton's camp has been insisting lately that the Democratic nominee must actually reach 2,210 to cross the finish line, a figure that includes the disputed delegates from the two states.
The Times suggested that a win for Obama in the predominantly white Oregon, as well as a celebration in the equally white Iowa, might help tamp down Clinton's claims that Obama is the weaker candidate because he cannot perform as well as she has among white voters.
As Clinton continues to make her case for being the nominee, Obama has begun a war of words with presumptive Republican nominee Senator John McCain, with the two men trading barbs over the weekend on foreign-policy issues. As McCain slammed Obama for what he said was the Illinois senator's lack of foreign-policy experience and willingness to engage in talks with such U.S. foes as Iran, Obama hit back quickly that McCain was endorsing the kind of Bush-era isolationist foreign policy that had helped Iran gain influence in the first place. Tellingly, Clinton mostly sat on the sidelines as the two men debated the issues in competing stump speeches over the weekend and on Monday morning.
And, in the meantime, over the past week, Obama began laying the groundwork for what appears to be a general-election campaign by visiting Michigan and Missouri, with trips to Florida and Iowa on the calendar this week.
Get informed! Head to Choose or Lose for nonstop coverage of the 2008 presidential election, including everything from the latest news on the candidates to on-the-ground multimedia reports from our 51 citizen journalists, MTV and MySpace's Presidential Dialogues, and much more.