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Winners and Losers: Of Mountaineers and Magnolias

Another primary night is in the books. But for once, it was a House race -- a special election in Mississippi -- not the presidential contest that served to surprise.

Hillary Rodham Clinton won a massive -- albeit expected -- 41-point victory over Barack Obama in West Virginia's Democratic primary, a result that is likely to keep Clinton in the contest all the way until June 3 but is not likely to change the overall fundamentals that have installed Obama as the presumptive nominee.

But it was a special election down South that had tongues wagging among political insiders in Washington. Democrat Travis Childers's win in the state's conservative 1st District was a huge stunner, as the race was barely on either party's radar screen a few months ago. It marked the third Republican seat that Democrats have won in special elections this cycle and is widely being interpreted as a sign of things to come in the fall.

Below you'll find The Fix's May 13 winners and losers -- the obvious and the not-so-obvious. Agree or disagree with our picks? Have winners and losers of your own? The comments section awaits.


Hillary Clinton: We usually avoid picking the most obvious winners (or losers), but it's hard not to include the New York senator after her showing in West Virginia. She endured a week of press coverage that concluded the race was over, only to score a 41-point victory -- a stunning result given the context. She followed up the victory with a terrific speech in which she laid out in stark terms her case to superdelegates. Will either the win or the speech change the ultimate outcome? Almost certainly not. But Clinton has proven -- yet again -- her resilience and resoluteness.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: There's no question that the national political environment played a powerful role in Democratic special election victories in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. But to underestimate the role of the DCCC in the wins is a mistake. The House campaign arm recruited credible candidates in each of the districts and funded extensive independent expenditure operations. By laying the recruitment and financial groundwork, the DCCC ensured it would be in position to strike when opportunity arose. As a result, the Democrats' House majority is three seats larger today than it was after the 2006 election.

John Anzalone: The Alabama-based pollster is the hottest commodity in the consultant business these days. Anzalone handled polling for Childers as well as Rep. Don Cazayoux, who won the Louisiana 6th District special election earlier this month. Among the other candidates in Anzalone's stable: State Sen. Kay Hagan, who is challenging Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) this fall; and state Sen. Debbie Halvorson, the odds-on favorite in the open-seat race in Illinois's 11th District.

Robert Byrd: The legendary Democratic senator from West Virginia got a shout-out from Clinton in her speech last night, despite the fact he has yet to endorse either of his party's candidates for president. In addition, Anne Barth, a longtime Byrd aide, easily won the Democratic primary in the state's 2nd Congressional District and moves on to face Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) in a potentially competitive general-election race.

John Denver: First, a mention in The Fix. Then, Clinton uses the "almost heaven" line to open her victory speech. What a day!


"Obama as Anchor" Advocates: For the second straight special election, Republicans and their affiliated groups sought to hang Obama around the neck of the Democratic candidate. And for the second straight time, it didn't work. Before Obama allies begin celebrating, however, remember that Childers publicly made clear that Obama had not endorsed his campaign and that the two candidates had no contact -- not exactly a ringing endorsement for the party's presumptive nominee. Still, what the last few weeks have shown is that tying Democratic candidates to Obama is not the silver bullet strategy that many Republicans had hoped. Back to the drawing board.

Tom Cole: The Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee isn't entirely to blame for his party's three straight special-election losses. The political environment is toxic for Republicans and, as a result, candidate recruitment and fundraising are nowhere near where they should be at this stage of the game. Regardless, Cole is likely to bear the brunt of the blame over the next few days as House Republicans search for some way to see their way through the current morass. Cole acknowledged the tenuousness of his party's standing with voters in a remarkably frank statement released last night; "the political environment is such that voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the country and the Republican Party in general," said Cole. "Therefore, Republicans must undertake bold efforts to define a forward looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for."

Jay Rockefeller/Nick Rahall: Both Rockefeller, the Mountain State's junior senator, and Rahall, who has represented West Virginia's 3rd District since 1976, endorsed Obama over Clinton in the nomination fight. While no one -- not even Rockefeller or Rahall -- expected Obama to carry the state, his 25.7 percent of the vote was lower than almost anyone imagined. What does it mean for the political futures of Rockefeller and Rahall? Probably nothing. But it's never good to appear that out of step with your constituents.

Nebraska: With all the focus on the presidential primary in West Virginia and the House special election in Mississippi, little ol' Nebraska got short shrift in the coverage. In case you care (and we readily admit you may not), former governor Mike Johanns (R) and 2006 3rd District candidate Scott Kleeb (D) cruised to their respective party nominations for race to succeed Sen. Chuck Hagel (R). And yes Nebraskans, The Fix was watching!

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 14, 2008; 1:56 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008 , House , Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: What Does It Mean: Miss. Special Election
Next: Edwards to Endorse Obama


The Washington Post should make it so people can not put commercial sight https on this comment board so people can click on this board. This isn't for someone else's commercial gain. It is for the readers of the Washington Post to comment. "Votenic" is the culprit in mind. Please shut them down from clogging up this message board for their own agenda.

Posted by: majorteddy | May 18, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The biggest losers in this year's presidential politics are the press guys.

Because of their lopsided,unquestioning support of Obama v. the major victories Senator Clinton has won, it is no longer possible to consider the press as credible.

We have a free press. We no longer have a fair press. That's a real blemish on our democracy.

Posted by: Lesley | May 16, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

The biggest losers in this year's presidential politics are the press guys.

Because of their lopsided,unquestioning support of Obama v. the major victories Senator Clinton has won, it is no longer possible to consider the press as credible.

We have a free press. We no longer have a fair press. That's a real blemish on our democracy.

Posted by: Lesley | May 16, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Will the real Barack Obama stand up?

Barack Obama just got a new makeover. His campaign has finally realized that some of the things about him they thought they could explain away are actually issues that ordinary Americans take offense with. Most recently Obama has been seen wearing a flag pin on his lapel. And all the time we thought that he meant what he said about not needing to prove his patriotism. But ever since Hamas endorsed him the flag has been Barry's best friend.

And just yesterday it was revealed that the leader of The New Black Panther Party, Malik Shabbaz has endorsed Obama.

Posted by: WendyPrince | May 15, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Winners and Losers: Of Mountaineers and Magnolias

Obama is the winner. This is politics. Hillary has lost, it is now about how she will gracefully exit the polls, maybe lie to the voters so she can campaign to get some of her lost funds at their expense, and the likes. The American people should not have to pick up her tab, when it is what we are trying to get away from now, picking up the tabs of the rich. I support Obama to the fullest, because he has picked up the tabs from the people along with their interests and concerns, which is a plus and an upward movement from what I can see. Keep up the good work Obama, for you are sinceely making a great difference in millions of lives, despite the rhetoric and the corrupt politic's agenda. The right wingers got Hillary caught up including herself, now let them pay and leave it there. We need our funds for our mortages, healthcare and the likes. We certainly appreciate Obama's concern for the American people to take our needs into consideration and our hard earned bucks to stretch and allocate them to gainful returns.

Posted by: Nisey01 | May 15, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Curtain Time For Barack Obama - Part I

Republicans have enough damaging information against Barack Obama to knock him off the ballot before the November election. Those at the top of the Democratic Party know this by now and voters need to recognize that if they nominate him they are throwing the election. Nothing else can explain why they would allow this disaster to happen.

The investigation called "Operation Board Games" will lead to Obama's downfall and it will begin with what he claims was a "boneheaded" mistake in entering into real estate deal with the Syrian-born immigrant, Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, less than a month after Rezko received a $3.5 million loan from the Iraqi-born billionaire, Nadhmi Auchi, who ended up with Riverside Park, a $2.5 billion 62-acre development project in the Chicago Loop.

Obama set his sights on a $2 million mansion the month after he was elected to the US Senate. It's now known that Rezko got involved in the house-buying endeavor early on, although his involvement would not known until November 2006, the month after Rezko's indictment was unsealed in the Operation Board Games case.

Posted by: WendyPrince | May 15, 2008 12:45 AM | Report abuse

One more possible impact of Edwards endorsement is that even if the Clinton supporters in the Rules and Bylaws committee manage to reinstate Florida and Michigan, Clinton will be having 50% of the vote and Obama+Edwards will have 47% of the vote in Florida. That essentially means she will get a delegate lead corresponding to that paltry 3%. That will possibly less than those 9 delegates advantage apparently she will be givenin Michigan.

Posted by: TwentyFirstCentury American | May 14, 2008 11:42 PM | Report abuse

You hear Obama's name mentioned in almost all the unexpected Democrat wins in US congress runs. On the other hand, the Clintons have never been known for helping other democrats win elections. People have also pointed out the difference in the two campaign words by the two camps: "Change" by the Obama camp and "Hillary" by the Clinton camp. There are just so many obvious and more subtle differences between the two candidates. The result in WV just tells us how stuck in the past these so called "low income, hardworking, blue-collar workers" are. Lucky for us (and the rest of the world), there are not enough of these folks remaining to tip the November election.

Posted by: KT11 | May 14, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

The winner you missed is Howard Dean and his 50 state strategy.

Posted by: Pam | May 14, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

It will be so nice to see Tom Cole get what's coming to him.

Posted by: Soonerthought | May 14, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Hillary was the biggest loser. She netted a grand total of +12 delegates out of West Virginia, less than the +12.5 superdelegates Obama has added so far this week (though Hillary also picked up one super, leaving her a net +0.5 delegates for the week as of 5:00 pm Wednesday).

Every day that passes without moving Clinton appreciably closer toward overtaking Obama's delegate lead is another nail in her political coffin. She now needs to win nearly three-fourths of the remaining elected and superdelegates to get to 2025; Obama needs only about a third of them. And it's already clear Hillary's thumping victory in West Virginia made zero impression on superdelegates, who continue to move in Obama's direction.

She's toast.

Posted by: Brad K | May 14, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Losers: Not sure I would place Sen. Clinton in the winner category since her victory in WVA was anticipated, Obama did not really contest, and her outrageous assessment of her own supporters as "hard working, white people" seriously tainted the results with the tinge of bigotry. The exit poll results backed up the bigotry angle big time.

Dick Chaney was the other big loser last night. Along with the whole Republican party.

Winners: Democratic party with its stunning victory in Mississippi.

Sen. Obama was a big winner because it was certainly proved that he will not be a dead weight on the party even in the Old South this fall. The Dem victory in Miss. was directly due to the coalition of aroused black voters and wised-up white voters who did not buy the corrupt GOP attempts to smear the Dem candidate with the Obama brush.

Posted by: dee | May 14, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I was looking for the stats on West Virginia turnout in this primary, both Democratic and Republican. Thoughts?

'Obama as Albatross' is a better term for the failed Republican strategy. 'Obama as Anchor' sounds more like he's the anchor of the Democratic Party, keeping them from drifting off course (such as the pandering 'gas tax holiday'). Which is both true and A Good Thing.

Posted by: Tom J | May 14, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Cheney - brrrrrr. I swear, I'm crapping bricks right now with Bush in Israel. If he should get offed then Cheney's president, and God, Allah, and Buddha help us all.

Posted by: treetopflyer | May 14, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Only Cheny's resignation would be the kind of dramatic gesture that says the Republicans are cleaning house. That might change the balance of opinion.

Posted by: Rafaelo | May 14, 2008 4:49 PM

You have just as good a chance seeing monkeys fly out his backside.

Posted by: Patrick NYC | May 14, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Dick Cheney's resignation is the Republicans' only chance. He has to take on his shoulders the blame for ignorant Iraq war management; for the assumption we'd be down to 5,000 troops in two years--and instead six years later we are funding an overseas army trying to keep the lid on a volatile situation with the entire country of Iraq on American welfare. With consequent inflation as our dollar collapses and oil and food prices skyrocket. Cheney must accept the blame for, and remove with his departure, the dishonor and the stench of a White House conspiracy to commit war crimes. Only Cheny's resignation would be the kind of dramatic gesture that says the Republicans are cleaning house. That might change the balance of opinion.

Posted by: Rafaelo | May 14, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Robin's points.

Posted by: chase123 | May 14, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

gerard - I completely understand. As an Obama contributer I get endless emails to go to this or that state to help campaign. After the latest email from the local coordinator here in Charlottesville asking me to go to Kentucky, I emailed back asking if Barack was going to be spending any time there. I'm not optimistic as to the response. I should go to one of the most racist states in the country and risk verbal, if not physical, abuse in a state Obama won't set foot in? Not much!!

Posted by: treetopflyer | May 14, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Side-show WINNERS:
1) Bill Clinton. Exit polling revealed that 60% of the voter thought having Bill Clinton campaign in the state was very important.

Side-show LOSERS:
1) West Virginia. In exit polling 20% of West Virginians voted on the basis of race and 50% believe Obama shares the same views as Rev. Wright.

Posted by: AJ | May 14, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I also think it was a major mistake not speaking to his supporters in WV last night. I recall how many people were critical of Hillary when she did not mention people of a certain state if she did not win. Until Obama is given the nomination he should be campaigning and thanking those who support him.

Posted by: Patrick NYC | May 14, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

While no one ever expected Obama to win or come close to winning in West Virginia, he only spent part of one day in the state. This is a total dis! If he wants to be the President of all of the United States, he needs to go to all 50 states, and just meet and greet with people. Once he warms up to them, he can't lose in November. But instead, he is sitting on his lead. He isn't doing much campaigning in Kentucky or Oregon. He needs to keep fighting not just because Hillary hasn't conceded and the superdelegates still haven't all come over to his side, but also because he is still such an unknown quantity to many Americans. I say this as an Obama supporter and one who has sent campaign contributions to him.

Posted by: gerard | May 14, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

2008 Presidential Election Weekly Poll

You Won't Believe These Results!

Posted by: votenic | May 14, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Winner - West Virginia's image. Gauging from the Clinton campaign, you would have guessed that this backwater is up there with New York and California in terms of economic, social, and political importance.

Clinton's odds to pick up the VP slot - Hill's codewords and persistence have fooled her deadenders (not hard, judging from the ones who populate The Fix), but not those who know the real score. But does Obama risk alienating those put off by Clinton race-baiting in favor of the mythical blue collar legions devoted to Hill?

Losers - GOP House members. Now we know why so many are taking early retirement. Right-wing pundits have been trying desperately to make the case that Obama and his "baggage" will be albatrosses, but with each passing day and special election it seems that Dubya & Co. are the real millstones.

Posted by: bondjedi | May 14, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

why didn't you mention that the 2 democrats in La. and Miss. dissed and dismissed Obama..

so the "obama as anchor" may work... for any dem stupid enough to claim obama ( in a southern or conservative district.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Just exactly as many have been posting throughout these threads, the curse of Bush will drag down the entire Republican ticket and especially McCain -- who one poster (GandalftheGrey) -- has been forecasting for months would "throw himself on the live grenade of the Bush legacy" and suffer the fate of all such war heros.

Donald Duck could run as a Democrat in 2008 and beat any Republican nominated.

Posted by: ScrewAbunchofFlagPins | May 14, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Obama's company is good for dems.

We can have hope :-)

Posted by: Patriot | May 14, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I pretty much agree with everything everyone has said here, esp You! But I will have to admit that I had forgotten Elizabeth Dole was a Senator. What has she been doing?

Also, if John McCain was smart he'd pick a woman as his VP, someone like ex Gov Christy Todd Whitman just to show the country he was not like Bush, ah er... forget the whole idea.

Posted by: Kurt | May 14, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

How funny that two people can listen to the same speech and come away with different opinions? Such is human nature.

I didn't find Clinton's speech terrific. It was the same old spin just a different 'swing' state. How many of them are there? And I laugh everytime she gives her website.

Obama could easily stress the divisions like Hillary does but his strength of character shines brighter than her dim bulb.

Posted by: Terry | May 14, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Hillary's win was impressive - 40 points - Kentucky will give her another big win

The schedule was not good for Hillary this year.

The Rules Committee on May 31 will give Hillary a big boost

Puerto Rico will put her over the top in popular vote.

At that time, the superdelegates would be very wise to look very closely at their polling data for the fall - they probably will go with Obama and they are getting used to the fact that it just may be a complete disaster.

Posted by: 37th&OStreet | May 14, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse


Thank you for your sharing your thinking methodology. (Now I can understand Sen. Clinton's support a little better.)

Posted by: Carmen Cameron | May 14, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Misssissippi - a bad candidate can mess everything up -

this is not that big

In November, voters will know that Bush is gone, and McCain is someone different - November is completely different.

Posted by: Words of Wisdom | May 14, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Loser: McCain. He can barely get his name in print, all I saw today was a small blurb on his Climate difference with Bush, as if that will matter. The longer this race goes on, the less ink he gets.

Posted by: Patrick NYC | May 14, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Losers - Effete, liberal bloggers who, as much as they want to kick working-class whites (aka half of FDR's "black and blue" coalition) out of the party, can't put together an electoral map that gets to 270 without voters like those in West Virginia.

Anyone else notice HRC cut Obama's margin by 30 points in Nebraska when more people could vote?

Posted by: Zach | May 14, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

A Nothing-Burger in West Virginia

Somewhere in an Iraqi prison, Saddam's famous "up is down" spin king Tariq Aziz is watching HRC's West Virginia "victory" speech with considerable professional respect and saying, "Not bad."

This is becoming silly. The Clintons have always seen the truth as a sort of Silly Putty, something easily stretched, bent and twisted at whim. No shame at all in pretending that an alternate reality based on ego is the same as the truth. Amazing really. It's almost a sort of madness.

Posted by: Richelieu | May 14, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Chris good article. I was not for Hillary before Edwards but will have switched to her. Being from Chicago I know the corruption in Il. 3 governors in jail- and Emil Jonmes Obama's mentor is protecting this one from REzko? I just am unahppy about liberal Dems losing elections/ re-eletions since FDR except Bill Clinton. The electoral college could have been for Gore if he respected the seconmd amendment -bear arms-he didn't need Flordia. W. Va or Tenn. Arkansas would have given him the electoral college win with his 500,000 lead. But Reid, Pelosi, Dukaksis, Mc Govern, Humphrey, Kerry, the list goes on -are not strong and Obama is not seasoned or strong. I'll vote Nader.
and Democrat Congress. Edwards and Gore are silent -interesting and Elizaeth Edwards is right about endorsing Hillary's health care plan.

Posted by: robin | May 14, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

dcp writes
"Maybe he's just trying to make it easier for her to withdraw, but turning his attention to the general election is an insult (and a mind tactic) and presumptuous. He could wind up regretting this."

I think you misread. He's still working in OR for a victory there. Its easier to write-off the WV loss if he can portray it as a state he didn't challenge. Look for the same strategy in KY.

Posted by: bsimon | May 14, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I agree Hillary is a winner. But what did she win?

Posted by: JNoel002 | May 14, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Remember when the democrat party used to respect the union vote in West Virginia?

Posted by: Karen | May 14, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Childers ran on a platform to stop illegal immigration and no amnesty. I wonder what will happen when he is up for reelection in November and his party has done nothing on illegal immigration but encourage it.

Posted by: Karen | May 14, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I think it is truly unwise for Barack Obama to turn his back on Hillary Clinton. He has completely disengaged her. She's still in the ring for crying out loud. It's never wise to underestimate your opponent. Maybe he's just trying to make it easier for her to withdraw, but turning his attention to the general election is an insult (and a mind tactic) and presumptuous. He could wind up regretting this.

Posted by: dcp | May 14, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Spec, thanks. I have modified my stridency.

Posted by: MarkInAustin | May 14, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Chris writes about Rockefeller and Rahall (who both endorsed Obama):
" What does it mean for the political futures of Rockefeller and Rahall? Probably nothing. But it's never good to appear that out of step with your constituents."

C'mon Chris! What about the few folks with courage to vote against Iraq back in 2003 (when 70% of Americans were for the war)? What about Sen Russ Feingold who voted against the Patriot Act, then subsequently won re-election easier than had in his previous elections?

Sometimes, voters ultimately respect/like political "leaders" more when they lead and don't merely follow the herd... Sometimes the herd is wrong.

Chris, why don't you talk about real substance and policy once in a while? The only reason politics matters is that it affects people's real lives...

Posted by: Christopher | May 14, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Mark: They even flew Dick Cheney in from the bunker to make a personal appearance! Talk about desperation.

Posted by: Spectator2 | May 14, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Spec posted on the previous thread that the Rs outspent the Ds in MS. Is this true?

Posted by: MarkInAustin | May 14, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

winner: Obama, Clinton staying in allowed to brush off a loss to a still viable candidate, losing by 40 to someone not still in the race would have been U G L Y.

Posted by: theaberlin | May 14, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Just like many black superdelegates who switched from Clinton to Obama, I hope these two oBama-nuts (Rockefeller and Rahall) will also switch to Clinton. This is just to show-off they barely represents people of West Virginia.

Posted by: oBama Nots | May 14, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Chris! Chris! Chris! (Still asleep after a long night?)

Your #1 "Loser" clearly neutralizes your #1 "Winner" (whose best argument to the supers now is that she officially "owns" the lowest end of the nation's educational learning curve).

Posted by: Carmen Cameron | May 14, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Loser: The state of West Virginia, for revealing an electorate where 20% of voters said their decision was largely based on race and 50% of voters think Obama shares his former pastor's views. Embarrassing.

Posted by: PRB | May 14, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JDWPS | May 14, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Missed winners: The super delegates. They will be able to command a hefty price for their vote.

Missed losers: The super delegates. If by some miracle the Democrat they choose loses the Presidential race this fall, they will be to blame. Is it too late to engineer a Dodd, Biden or Richardson convention?

California - Moving the primary from June to February sure is looking brilliant now isn't it?

Clinton - The Mississippi special election has made it clear the Democrat is going to win this fall barring a major debacle and it won't be her.

Posted by: muD | May 14, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Chris writes
"WINNERS: Hillary Clinton: We usually avoid picking the most obvious winners (or losers), but it's hard not to include the New York senator after her showing in West Virginia."

Actually, I disagree that Clinton is an obvious winner, or a winner at all. When the consensus response to a 41 point victory is 'so what', it kindof takes the shine off the prize.

Posted by: bsimon | May 14, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Really happy about the Mississippi election. Really disturbed by Clinton overtaking Ralph Nader is spoiler.

Posted by: Wanakee | May 14, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

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