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A Clinton exit? Bad for Obama

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May 11, 2008|DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

"The Democratic race now moves to West Virginia," Jay Leno noted the other night. "Today, Hillary Clinton claimed she always wanted to be a coal miner. But those dreams were dashed when she was forced to attend Wellesley and Yale."

The political focus now does, indeed, shift to the Mountain State for its primary on Tuesday. And then Kentucky and Oregon and Puerto Rico, down to the very end in Montana and South Dakota on June 3.

Times political writer Mark Z. Barabak had an interesting conversation with Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist not involved with a candidate this time. Counterintuitively, the way he sees the inevitable delegate math in favor of Barack Obama, the worst thing that could happen to the Illinois senator now is what so many party members are clamoring for: Hillary Rodham Clinton to drop out.

Why?

Because with her name still on the ballots, she'd be very likely to win in West Virginia anyway. And maybe Kentucky too, given the demographics in both places. And possibly Puerto Rico as well.

How would that look if at the end of the Democratic race the winning candidate with clearly the most delegates and popular votes went down to defeat against a candidate who isn't in the contest anymore? Ouch! That would tend to overshadow his expected wins in Oregon and Montana.

In fact, although little noticed because the Republican race had long been over, Sen. John McCain won his Pennsylvania primary with 73% of the vote. Put another way, the surefire Republican nominee lost about 27% of his party's vote to a candidate who had long since dropped out (former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee) and a Republican rebel who never really had any chance of winning (Texas Rep. Ron Paul).

"If [Obama] lost to a candidate who's withdrawn, that would hurt him a lot," says Devine. "And there's a good chance that could happen."

Better for Obama, he figures, for the former first lady to remain in the race a few more weeks, as long as she recalibrates her rhetorical cannons at McCain and President Bush.

Sign them up, they said

Ever since he claimed his big North Carolina win, Obama has clearly signaled that he's moving on with a general election campaign.

So his campaign announced 14 co-chairs of a nationwide voter registration drive. All pretty predictable and routine . . . until the list is perused.

Who knew, for instance, that Usher -- the R&B singer, identified in the Obama release by his full name, Usher Raymond IV -- had an interest in nitty-gritty political organizing?

Same with band leader Dave Matthews and knockout actress Kerry Washington?

All three will be, according to the campaign, among those who "will oversee the program's efforts and act as surrogates to boost participation across the country."

The first quote about the effort, in fact, comes from singer Melissa Etheridge, who says, "Barack Obama started his career as a community organizer in Chicago, working with communities devastated by plant closings, and after law school he returned to those neighborhoods to register new voters. From the beginning of his career, he's made change happen by enfranchising people at the grass roots, and that's what Vote for Change is all about."

That may well be, but we can't wait to see her, Usher, Matthews and Washington toting registration sign-up sheets at shopping centers.

Honoring the 57 states

Obama, speaking at the start of a two-day swoop through Oregon, let it slip that during this marathon 16-month Democratic presidential nomination struggle, he had already visited 57 states with one more to go.

That's not counting Alaska and Hawaii, he said, which his staff decided aren't important enough to visit yet.

Has this aging freshman senator -- he'll be almost 60 in 13 years -- lost his bearings? Obama's gaffe caused a noticeable stir online during the day, and even the respected Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic anticipated that the political media would kindly write off the Democrat's misstatement to fatigue. But he wrote that if, say, the Republican nominee-to-be had uttered the same silly flub, it would surely be added to eager suspicions of senility.

Besides trying to noodle out what the new states are, some clever campaign folks over at the Suitably Flip blog got to thinking right away.

And they've now unveiled a new patriotic lapel pin that anyone can wear with pride -- even, say, a Harvard-educated senator from Illinois who's been trying to make a point about opposing a war before it even started.

Yes, it's all one sentence

Columnist George Will channeled his inner William Faulkner in reflecting on the straits Clinton faces in her pursuit of the Democratic nomination.

Pundits galore wrote words aplenty on the same topic, but no others did so in a sentence (yes, a la Faulkner, a single twisting sentence) as audacious as the one produced by the erudite Will. We commend it to your attention:

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