Kentucky, Oregon: Measuring Sticks for Obama?

| Tue May. 20, 2008 5:45 PM PDT

Okay, let's get down to business. Kentucky's 51 delegates and Oregon's 52 delegates are at stake tonight. If you follow politics at all you know that the polls predict a 30+ point win for Hillary Clinton in Kentucky and a 5-15 point win for Barack Obama in Oregon.

It's right around 8:00 pm and Clinton has already been declared the winner in Kentucky. With half the votes in, she's up by 20. Clinton will be speaking soon, for two reasons: (1) Obama will be sucking up all the oxygen later in the evening with a speech that isn't-but-kinda-is a victory speech for the race as a whole; and (2) Oregon's innovative vote-by-mail system means that results from that state may not be in until 11 pm eastern. Might as well strike while the iron is hot.

In this junior pundit's brain, these elections are a measuring stick for Obama. That's the important part of the night. Yes, he'll reach the magic number for a majority of the pledged delegates (3,253), and yes, that entitles him to claim, as his campaign did earlier, that the voters of the country have sent him an "unmistakable message" of support akin to, well, victory. But he's had this thing sown up for a while now. That's not new news.

Tonight's two elections, and the two remaining on June 3rd, and more valuable as a gauge for Obama's momentum. In Kentucky, we can see if his impending victory in the primary convinced a larger portion of those fabled working class whites to vote for him (I'm guessing no, for the record). In Oregon, we can see if he is finishing Clinton off among the coastal liberals he supposedly owns as a demographic. It may be tough to get an accurate picture out of Oregon, however, because the vote-by-mail system means many ballots were filled out earlier this month.

Nevertheless, these races are more about learning about Obama than they are about changing the race.

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