Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday said her opponent Barack Obama may be getting a little ahead of himself in acting like the party's nominee before the final contests of the primary season are over.
Clinton and Obama are still set to face off in several more primaries, including two in Kentucky and Oregon on Tuesday, but Obama has been increasingly portraying himself as the nominee already facing Republican John McCain. Obama has scheduled appearances later this week in Iowa and Florida as he looks ahead to the swing states in the general election.
"You can declare yourself anything, but if you don't have the votes, it doesn't matter," Clinton said Monday in a satellite interview with an Oregon television station before a campaign appearance in Kentucky.
The former first lady trails Obama in the delegate count by such a margin that it is mathematically unlikely for her to overtake him in the remaining primaries, which end June 3 with Montana and South Dakota.
But both candidates have been angling to win over the party leaders and elected officials known as superdelegates, whose support will likely determine the nominee.
Clinton has also tried to make the case that if the results of disputed primaries in Michigan and Florida are included, she would be narrowly ahead of Obama in the overall popular vote. Clinton won both contests, but the results of the two primaries were voided because they took place in January in violation of Democratic Party rules.
Since then, Clinton has argued strenuously that both states' delegations be seated at the Democratic convention in August. The DNC rules committee has scheduled a May 31 meeting to consider options.
To bolster her popular vote argument, Clinton's campaign has concentrated most of its efforts in Kentucky this week in order to run up her numbers there. The New York senator left Oregon on Friday to campaign exclusively in Kentucky.
Clinton has also been making her case to the superdelegates by casting herself as the more tested and experienced Democrat with a better chance of beating McCain in November.
She said Monday that she is the "more progressive candidate" and dismissed the hype surrounding Obama that results in the large crowds like the record rally of an estimated 65,000 he drew in Portland on Sunday afternoon.
Clinton said Obama, who has refused to debate her since they last faced off just before the Pennsylvania primary last month, would "rather just talk to giant crowds than have questions asked."
Later, while speaking to several hundred people in a high school gymnasium, Clinton picked up her campaign's argument that Obama's victories in states that had caucuses instead of primaries are somehow less significant because turnout was lower.
Clinton also revived her pitch that many of the states where he has beaten her, like Alaska, Idaho and Utah, matter less because they would not be competitive for Democrats in November. Anybody "who's really analyzing this" should come to the same conclusions, she said.
"So 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," Clinton said. "And if Kentucky turns out tomorrow, I will be closer to that nomination because of you."