Thursday, February 07, 2008

Clinton focuses on Southwest Virginia; later-voting states looking forward to being part of the process

Rural Southwest Virginia is one of the new battlegrounds in the Democratic race for president. Barack Obama was once thought to have the edge in the state, as well as adjoining Maryland and the District of Columbia, all of which vote next Tuesday, but Hillary Clinton plans to contest the state by focusing partly on "the state's economically struggling rural southwest, where unemployment is high among white working-class voters," The Washington Post reports.

Clinton strategists "see conditions in the region as similar to those in neighboring Tennessee, which Clinton won Tuesday, and in rural Missouri, where she also did well, though she narrowly lost the state to Obama," Bill Turque and Anne Kornblut report. "She was endorsed this week by Democrats in Wise County in southwest Virginia, though the area's congressman, Rick Boucher, is supporting Obama."

Others making arguments for Obama in rural Virginia include former John Edwards strategist Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, who told the Post that Clinton might encounter difficulty with southwest Virginians on economic issues. "He said many people there blame the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993," the Post reports. "Saunders said Obama will also have to work hard to introduce himself to that region, an uphill feat in what amounts to a five-day campaign."

As for Clinton, the other major focus of her strategy is the fast-growing Washington suburbs in Northern Virginia. Obama's advisers have a different strategy, which has "broken Virginia into four parts -- Northern Virginia, Richmond, Charlottesville and the Tidewater area -- all of which are filled with the voters they seek," Turque and Kornblut report. "Virginia ... is expected to be the most heavily contested turf over the next six days in what has been variously dubbed the Potomac, Chesapeake or Beltway primary." (Read more)

UPDATE, Feb. 8: Saturday, former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak in Chesapeake at 9:30 a.m., then head to the southwest, speaking in Abingdon at 4:30 p.m. and in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech at 8 p.m. Clinton has scheduled town meetings Sunday in Roanoke and Manassas, and she and Obama will speak at Saturday night's Democratic Party dinner in Richmond, reports The Roanoke Times. (Read more)

"Obama is looking to sweep the Feb. 12 primaries," reports Bloomberg News, citing a confidential campaign memo. "Obama's advisers are anticipating the possibility of a Democratic presidential race deadlocked past the last primary, and the outcome may hinge on a fight over whether delegations from Florida and Michigan get seats at the party's national convention." The memo anticipates that Clinton will win West Virginia May 13 and Kentucky May 20. (Read more)

Such a memo might be part of an expectations game, but it looks legitimate to NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd, who writes in First Read: "Their analysis seems to be based on the number of working class and/or Hispanic Democrats in various states; check out the states Obama's team believes it will lose: Maine, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Kentucky. All of those states have a lot more blue-collar Democrats than white-wine drinking Democrats. So it's a very realistic assessment." (Read more)

The prospect of a fight through the rest of the primary schedule prompted Mark Johnson of The Charlotte Observer to write, "North Carolina will matter after all. The stressfully tight race for the Democratic -- and, to a lesser extent, Republican -- presidential nomination makes it almost a mathematical certainty that neither nominee will be selected by the time North Carolina holds its primary on May 6, a whimsical improbability a month ago." (Read more)

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