As Senator Barack Obama, speaking in Des Moines last night, strove to turn his presidential campaign into a race against Republican John McCain, Tuesday's primaries in Kentucky and Oregon showed Democratic voters deeply divided.
With all but Grant County reporting in Oregon, Obama has won Oregon's primary, beating Sen. Hillary Clinton 58%-42%, a wider margin than most of the late polls had predicted. But Clinton captured a resounding victory in Kentucky. She turned out more than twice as many Kentucky voters as did Obama, winning 65% to 30%. Clinton prevailed in all Kentucky counties but the two most urban, Jefferson County (Louisville) and Fayette Co. (Lexington).
Among rural voters in Oregon, Clinton and Obama were nearly even (50.2% to 49.8%). But in rural Kentucky, Sen. Clinton beat Obama by a margin of more than 4 to 1.
In the past several days, the Appalachian region, which includes rural Eastern Kentucky, has been a focus of political speculation. Clinton pounded Obama here. She won 93% of the vote in Magoffin County, 91% in Floyd and Pike, and 90% in Breathitt County. Yet Clinton was also strong in other rural parts of the state. She won 84% of the vote in Livingston County, in Western Kentucky along the Ohio River, and (perhaps not surprisingly) she won 92% in south-central Clinton County, on the Tennessee line.
According to the Associated Press, Barack Obama now has the support of 1956 delegates, to Clinton's 1776. The Democratic nominee needs 2026 delegates.
Obama addressed a crowd in Des Moines as the polls closed in Oregon and Kentucky: "Tonight, in the fullness of spring, with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States of America."
Voters in the thousands of small towns between Portland and Louisville don't seem quite ready to hand Obama the nomination he's reaching for. Nor does Senator Clinton. Speaking to a crowd in Louisville Tuesday night, Clinton vowed, "I'm going to keep making our case until we have a nominee, whoever she may be."