Sen. Barack Obama is expected to declare tonight that he has crossed a pivotal threshold toward becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, though his rival may trounce him by double digits in Kentucky and disputes his math.
Despite the expected Kentucky loss, Mr. Obama will have earned the majority of pledged delegates that can be won through contests, a milestone that many superdelegates have said they will use to determine their support for the senator from Illinois or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
Mr. Obama hedged and told reporters that he won’t be claiming “victory,” but the campaign said he will be breaking a psychological barrier that makes him the inevitable nominee. He will make the announcement from Iowa, the scene of his first win this year and a state that his camp considers a battleground in the fall election.
The Clinton camp said no such barrier will be broken.
“Not so fast,” Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson cautioned in a memo yesterday, calling the Obama milestone a “slap in the face to the millions of voters in the remaining primary states and to Sen. Clinton“s 17 million supporters.”
“There is no scenario under the rules of the Democratic National Committee by which Sen. Obama will be able to claim the nomination tomorrow night,” Mr. Wolfson wrote. “Premature victory laps and false declarations of victory are unwarranted. Declaring mission accomplished does not make it so.”
She said the nominee must reach a number that includes delegates from the disputed Florida and Michigan contests and told an Oregon TV station yesterday: “You can declare yourself anything, but if you don’t have the votes, it doesn’t matter.”
Her campaign is angling to increase her popular vote total in hopes of somehow changing the mathematics.
“I’m going to make my case and I’m going to make it until we have a nominee, but we’re not going to have one today and we’re not going to have one tomorrow and we’re not going to have one the next day,” she said yesterday. “If Kentucky turns out tomorrow, I will be closer to that nomination because of you.”
The two campaigns view the nomination process differently, as illustrated by their Web sites.
The Obama site, www.BarackObama.com, includes an intricate delegate breakdown from each contest that shows him ahead by delegates and states won.
Mrs. Clinton’s site instead notes the popular vote — 16.69 million for her and 16.65 million for her rival — based on the campaign’s calculation including Florida and Michigan and discounting Mr. Obama’s caucus victories.
Factoring in Florida and the caucus turnouts in Iowa, Nevada, Maine and Washington, Mr. Obama beats Mrs. Clinton in the popular vote 17.01 million to 16.93 million. His name was not on the ballot in Michigan.View Entire Story
By Mark Mix
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