If Sen. Barack Obama has already locked down the nomination, why are the Democratic voters of West Virginia jiggling the keys?
Your spinmeisters' challenges on a seemingly anticlimactic day that could nonetheless mean something to this race:
- Camp Clinton wants us to think that a blowout in West Virginia matters, even if it won't do a thing to touch the delegate math.
- Obamaland wants us not to care that the probable Democratic nominee is about to get blown out in a swing state, since it won't do a thing to touch the delegate math.
- Team McCain just wants us to care about the math of the Democratic race to keep this race alive for as long as possible (and not pay so much attention to would-be spoilers).
Whether or not Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton can make the Mountain State shift the political plates -- and whether or not it matters at all at this point -- one candidate will have a stronger argument for her case to superdelegates with a big win, and the other will have a weaker argument for his case with a big loss.
If West Virginia comes in as expected -- as even Obama, oddly conceding defeat a day early, says he expects -- Clinton, D-N.Y., will have an excuse to stick around for a while, if that's what she's looking for.
"She and her chief political counselor, her husband, see the two coming primaries [in West Virginia and Kentucky] as crucial to strengthening her standing and, if it comes to it, to allowing her to leave the race on a high note," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times. "Accumulating victories this late in the primary season -- as Mr. Obama looks so strong -- might also bolster a bid for the vice presidency, should she decide to seek it."
"Her campaign hopes a dramatic win will re-focus public attention on the Democratic contest, even though Obama and much of the national media seem intent on moving on to the general election," James Oliphant writes in the Chicago Tribune.
Barring a shocker, party insiders will learn again that Obama, D-Ill., has a very real problem with working-class Democrats, just in the off-chance that superdelegates are still paying attention to such things.
"Obama needs to be able to convince voters like these that he cares about them, shares their values, and will change their lives," ABC's Jake Tapper writes. "If these Democrats vote for Clinton, the presumptive loser, overwhelmingly -- as is predicted -- that indicates a real problem for Obama."
"As the Illinois senator shifts his focus to the general election, he must prove he can win over the state's working-class white voters," Amy Chozick writes in The Wall Street Journal.
Twenty-eight delegates are at stake in West Virginia. Polls opened at 6:30 am ET and close at 7:30 pm -- with early turnout "steady, not particularly heavy," per the Secretary of State's office. The forecast is overcast and foggy through much of the state, but no severe weather is expected.
The Democratic rank-and-file doesn't seem to mind the fun: "Pushing back against political punditry, more than six in 10 Democrats say there's no rush for Hillary Clinton to leave the presidential race -- even as Barack Obama consolidates his support for the nomination and scores solidly in general-election tests," ABC Polling Director Gary Langer writes.