Today the nexus of the political universe is split between east and west as Oregon and Kentucky become the latest in a seemingly unending series of states, provinces, commonwealths, island nations and Districts of Columbia to cast their lot for the nominees of the Democratic and Republican primaries.
This go-around, much like last week's primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, will likely be a wash. Clinton is heavily favored to trounce Obama in yet another Appalachian state, while the presumptive nominee is equally favored to ride his base in western Oregon to a comfortable win. Upon doing so, Obama would reach yet another important milestone on his way to the nomination, an insurmountable lead in elected delegates. Although said-delegates are not hopelessly tied to one candidate or another - the same with superdelegates - it does represent what many pundits believe is the last straw both holding Obama back from declaring victory, as well as keeping Senator Clinton from abandoning the race.
Tomorrow morning, however, will likely dawn as all the other post-election days have thus far, with Clinton claiming enough momentum to stay in the race until the votes are counted in the remaining primary states and territories. Obama, not unlike Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, will awaken to find out that Clinton's
campaign has seen its shadow once again, and yes, there will be at least three more weeks of campaigning.
GREETINGS FROM OREGON, THE BEAVER STATE
Fifty-two pledged delegates are up for grabs in this far western outpost. Ideologically, Oregon is split between its more rural and conservative east and its highly progressive and liberal northwest. Nationally, Oregon has voted for the Democratic nominee every cycle since Dukakis/Bentsen in 1988, although the past two elections have been decided by razor-thin margins. The largest city, Portland, is located at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, just across the border from Washington state. Obama figures to do well in this city of more than 500,000. Watch to see if he runs up big margins in the counties of Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington. Early indications are that he will, considering his Sunday afternoon rally along the Portland riverfront drew an estimated 72,000 people.
Just south is the capital city of Salem, roughly 160,000 strong and the third largest city in the state. Obama figures to do well here and in Eugene, located along the Pacific coastline.
Clinton has to hope for big returns in the smaller cities and towns of eastern Oregon, long a Republican stronghold. Cities like Bend and Pendleton and small towns such as Ontario (which borders Idaho and the Snake River) will have to be counted on to offset Obama's margins in the Willamette Valley. She has won the endorsement of the state's Democratic governor, Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
The state votes entirely by mail-in ballots, all of which must make it to their proper counting points by 10 p.m. CT. The primary is closed, that is, only open to registered Democrats.
GREETINGS FROM KENTUCKY, THE BLUEGRASS STATE
Actually the nickname is a misnomer, as Kentucky is a commonwealth and not technically a state. It is one of four remaining in the United States (Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts).
The state is largely rural; its largest cities clustered in the northern and eastern part of the state. Louisville (population 709,000) and Lexington (271,000) will probably split between the two candidates, with Obama likely pulling in a large contingent of African-American voters in the Louisville metropolitan area. More than 50 percent of the state's African American population is located in Jefferson County and the Louisville metro, with much of the remainder split between Lexington and Paducah.
All three Clintons have spent considerable time in the commonwealth over the past week, and polls reflect Mrs. Clinton with a sizeable advantage, in some polls by as much as 30 points. Her base - working-class, rural voters - are prevalent throughout the state, concentrated in the east and through its center, into cities like Bowling Green and Elizabethtown. If Clinton is to indeed pull off an impressive victory in Kentucky, those are the areas where she'll have to rack up big margins.
Like Oregon, the primary is open only to registered Democrats. Unlike Oregon, the votes are cast in a typical primary voting format. All polls close by 6 p.m., CT.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
The country's longest serving senator, Robert Byrd (D-WVa.), endorsed Barack Obama on Monday. No word as to why the repentant former KKK member waited until after his state's primary to endorse Obama, but it might have helped soften the Illinois senator's 41-point loss there last week.
TODAY IN ELECTORAL HISTORY
May 20, 1960: The presumptive Democratic nominee, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, took the Oregon primary with 51 percent of the vote. Second was the then-U.S. Senator from Oregon, Wayne Morse, who garnered 32 percent of the vote. Morse, an ardent critic of the conflict in Vietnam (then in its infancy) once fillibustered the Senate by himself for 22 hours and 26 minutes over the Tidelands Oil legislation. At the time, it was the longest one-person fillibuster in Senate history.
IF YOU THINK IT'S BAD NOW...
Yes, Hillary Clinton cannot legitimately win the 2008 Democratic nomination, according to the delegate math. Her only chance at this point is to hope for either an Obama meltdown or a huge influx of superdelegate support, neither of which appear very likely at this point. (Although one would likely tie in with the other.) Excluding the results of Michigan and Florida (as well as the popular vote tallies of caucus states Iowa, Nevada, Maine and Washington) Obama leads Clinton in the popular vote (by 596,114 votes), in elected or "pledged" delegates (by 167) and in superdelegates (by 25). Those numbers, by the way, are courtesy of RealClearPolitics.com.
The math is clearly not in Sen. Clinton's favor and Tuesday should not be any help, as Obama is expected to pick up enough elected delegates to claim an insurmountable lead in that category. In the end, excluding Michigan and Florida, the nominee will need 2,026 total delegates, positioning Obama a mere 113 away from the finish line. Terry McAuliffe, a high level Clinton surrogate, claims that the race will be decided by June 3, when the last of the national primaries will take place. Others claim that Clinton could and should fight all
the way to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo., which doesn't take place until the final week of August.
If you're one of those who thinks this race has gone on for far too long or that the stark reality of mathematics has never been so egregiously under-emphasized, then you must have blacked out during the 1980 presidential primary, when incumbent President Jimmy Carter was taken all the way to the convention by Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy.
Carter won 37 of the 50 primaries and held a popular vote advantage of nearly 2.7 million votes*. But trouble in Iran and a pervasive energy crisis (familiar?) had many within the party convinced that Carter would not be a strong enough candidate to defeat the upstart Republican at the time, a Californian named Ronald Reagan. Kennedy waited it out until the convention, whereupon Carter prevailed with more than 64 percent of the delegation's vote. Kennedy returned to the Senate and never again ran for the nation's highest office. Meanwhile, the Carter/Mondale ticket got blitzed later that year during what turned out to be a "change election." Reagan defeated The Man From Plains by an electoral count of 489 to 49*, earning the first of two terms in the Oval Office. It was the beginning of 28 years of either a Bush or Clinton in the executive branch, which brings us full-circle to another change election and perhaps another contentious convention here in 2008.
*The 1980 numbers were provided by Dave Leip's Election Atlus (http://uselectionatlas.org/) and, of course, the ubiquitous Wikipedia.