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ISSUE: Kentucky primary election
OUR VIEW: Political spotlight shifts
Finally, after patiently enduring four and a half months of presidential debates, analyses, and hyperbolic, Armageddon-like headlines before and after endless primary elections and caucuses, Kentucky voters, at least Democrats, get to have their say.
This time, for a change, the rest of the nation is likely to pay some attention to the late-in-the-political-season state primary election.
No, with only 51 delegates to apportion among the Democratic candidates, and nine unpledged super delegates, the state is not going to clinch the nomination for either Illinois Sen. Barack Obama or New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. With 2,025 delegates required to win the party’s nomination at its national convention in Denver this summer, Obama has 1,840.5 to Clinton’s 1,688 following their trade-off in Tuesday’s balloting. Clinton barely won Indiana while Obama ran away with North Carolina.
There is not as much drama in store for Kentucky Republicans unless, of course, it is the thrill of watching the two Democrats scar each other for the November general election. Arizona Sen. John McCain has the Republican nomination locked up, but still will appear on the Kentucky ballot with the names of the five candidates he outlasted, and “uncommitted.” So the vote in this state’s Republican primary probably will be used by many to gauge whether the party’s presumptive nominee is making peace with conservatives while appealing to independents in states with demographics similar to Kentucky’s.
Kentucky Republicans also will have an opportunity to register their support for the state’s senior senator, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who faces a little-known Republican opponent.
Clinton and Obama will share their party ballot with former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who no longer is a candidate, and “uncommitted.” Democrats also will choose from eight candidates who want to challenge McConnell. At least one has dropped out while Bruce Lunsford and Greg Fischer duke it out to take on McConnell.
Voters here will choose between Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire and veteran state Sen. David Boswell to compete with Republican State Sen. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green for the 2nd District seat in the House of Representatives. The seat was vacated just before the filing deadline by Cecilia’s Ron Lewis.
Neither Obama nor Clinton, though, can afford to ignore Kentucky which votes on May 20, one week after West Virginia voters go to the polls. Clinton needs to at least maintain her support among rural and small-town voters in Kentucky, a state her husband carried twice. Obama must demonstrate continued support among African-American and young, educated, urban-suburban voters, many of them registered and involved for the first time.
It could be said that both of the Democratic candidates have more to lose in Kentucky than to win. The number of available delegates would not put either over the top. Either would ignore the state at his or her own political peril as the primary season winds down, their party’s national convention approaches and party chieftains prepare to nominate a candidate without a clear voter’s mandate.
— This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.