Hillary Rodham Clinton toured the birthplace of Mother's Day in rural West Virginia, offering Democrats a subtle reminder Sunday that her fading candidacy remains strong among women and blue-collar, white voters.
That loyal base is expected to carry Clinton to a sizable victory in the primary on Tuesday, though it won't do much to close the gap between her and Barack Obama, her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton's lingering candidacy highlights not just her strengths but also how difficult it has been for Obama to make inroads among some key Democratic constituencies.
Clinton made a brief afternoon visit to the home of Anna Jarvis, who is credited with founding Mother's Day 100 years ago. Clinton spoke to reporters afterward and told stories about women who have changed history by pressing for equal rights and breaking into male-dominated careers.
She highlighted her own mother's working-class upbringing and quoted from letters she said mothers have written her recently.
"Keep fighting," Clinton said, reading from one of those letters. "The fact is that you stood throughout the constant ups and downs of this race. You never wavered and you never gave up."
Clinton said her favorite letter ended, "It's not over until the lady in the pantsuit says it is."
At an evening campaign stop in Eleanor, W.Va., Clinton quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: "A woman is like a tea bag. you never know how strong she is until she's in hot water."
Facing long odds
Though Obama has amassed a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates and has turned his attention to a general election against Republican John McCain, Clinton is pressing ahead in West Virginia and Kentucky — states where the demographics strongly favor her.
Overall, her campaign has remained alive largely because of her 60 percent to 36 percent edge over Obama among white women voters in the primaries so far. But among college-educated white women — the demographic of many feminists and of Clinton herself — her edge is much smaller, 54 percent to 43 percent, according to exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks.
Even if, as expected, she racks up hefty wins in both West Virginia and Kentucky, it likely won't change the landscape of the race. But Clinton's advisers hope it will persuade party leaders that she is more likely than Obama to beat McCain.
Clinton did not mention Obama on Sunday. But campaign strategist Howard Wolfson said West Virginia is a key swing state that Republicans won in 2000 and 2004, and that the former first lady will put back in the Democratic column. He said Obama should beat her there if he wants her out of the race.
"Why can't Senator Obama beat Senator Clinton in West Virginia? Voters there have heard that he's the presumptive nominee," Wolfson said on "Fox News Sunday." "They've seen the great press he's gotten in the past couple of days. Let's let them decide. They have an opportunity. They want to end this on Tuesday, they're perfectly capable of it."
Besides his lead in pledged delegates, those won in primaries and caucuses, Obama on Saturday erased Clinton's once-commanding advantage among superdelegates, the elected Democrats and party leaders who will play a role in determining which one of them becomes the nominee.
The two rivals are virtually deadlocked with 271 superdelegates each, according to an Associated Press count. In the overall race for the nomination, Obama leads with 1,859.5 delegates, to 1,697 for Clinton. Obama is just 165.5 delegates short of the 2,025 delegates needed to win it.
NBC's national delegate count currently stands at 1426 for Clinton and 1590 for Obama. NBC’s estimated superdelegate count stands at 277.5 for Clinton and 269 for Obama.
[There are differences in how news organizations count delegates, how they award superdelegates, how they account for states that have held caucuses but have not yet chosen their delegates, and how they project the apportionment of delegates within Congressional districts where the vote was close. The Associated Press and NBC news conduct separate delegate counts.]
Obama took Sunday off, spending it at home in Chicago. He has scheduled campaign appearances in Charleston, W.Va., and Louisville, Ky., on Monday.