Her moment of glory may prove to be short-lived, but Hillary Clinton got a chance to bask in the glow of an apparently overwhelming victory in West Virginia's Democratic primary on Tuesday night, and she took it.
Even though in her victory speech Clinton emphasized that she'd press on and continue to fight for the Democratic nomination, and even though she made some of the same arguments about electability she's been making for some time now, her speech was in some ways subdued, and she was careful to be accommodating to rival Barack Obama and his supporters.
"Here in West Virginia, you know a thing or two about rough roads to the top of the mountain. We know from the Bible that faith can move mountains, and my friends, the faith of the mountain state has moved me. I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign," Clinton said, pausing there to acknowledge a wave of cheers from her supporters before continuing, "until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard. I want to commend Sen. Obama and his supporters ... yes, we've had a few dust-ups along the way, but our commitment to bring America new leadership that will renew America's promise means that we have always stood together on what's most important."
Then, as she did after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries last week, she broke from her basic message to ask her supporters for money to continue the campaign. (Someone might want to remind Clinton's staffers that no matter how much they need the money, pledge drives are never scintillating.)
Then she was back on message, part of which was a strong caution not to believe pundits when they count her out of the race. "You've heard this before. There are many who wanted to declare a nominee before the ballots were counted or even cast. Some said our campaign was over after Iowa, but then we won New Hampshire," she said. "So this race isn't over yet ... In a campaign it can be easy to get lost in the political spin or the polls or the punditry, but we must never lose sight of what really counts, of why all of us care so much about who wins and who loses in our political system."
Clinton also argued again for the disputed delegations from Florida and Michigan to be seated, and resurrected an alternative measure of victory in the race for the nomination that her campaign has been floating recently. "Both Sen. Obama and I believe that the delegates from Florida and Michigan should be seated. I believe we should honor the votes cast by 2.3 million people in those states and seat all of their delegates," Clinton said. "Under the rules of our party, when you include all 50 states, the number of delegates needed to win is 2,209, and neither of us has reached that threshold yet. This win in West Virginia will help me move even closer."
And Clinton repeated her familiar electability argument, though this time she didn't repeat the theories about demographics that often underlie it:
An enormous decision falls on the shoulders of Democratic voters in these final contests and those Democrats empowered to vote at our convention. And, tonight, in light of our overwhelming victory here in West Virginia, I want to send a message to everyone still making up their mind. I am in this race because I believe I am the strongest candidate to lead our party in November of 2008, and the strongest president to lead our nation starting in January of 2009.
I can win this nomination, if you decide I should. And I can lead this party to victory in the general election, if you lead me to victory now.
She continued along this vein for some time, but included in it was the beginning of the praise of Obama and the message of party unity that ran throughout her speech:
The choice falls to all of you, and I don't envy you. I deeply admire Senator Obama, but I believe our case -- a case West Virginia has helped to make -- our case is stronger ... The bottom line is this: The White House is won in the swing states, and I am winning the swing states ...
I believe that this campaign has been good for the Democratic Party and good for our country. People are discussing and debating issues. They are turning out in record numbers to register and to vote. There is an excitement about politics that is the lifeblood of our democracy ...
We all want a better world for our children, and we want the best for our country. And we are committed to putting a Democrat back in the White House.
And our nominee will be stronger for having campaigned long and hard, building enthusiasm and excitement, hearing your stories, and answering your questions. And I will work my heart out for the nominee of the Democratic Party to make sure we have a Democratic president.
Obama didn't give any speech on the primary results Tuesday night; he was not in the state, focusing on speeches and travel that appear to be preparation for the general election.