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Clinton fights on, Obama returns to Iowa

  • Story Highlights
  • Clinton appears to be looking toward Tuesday, Obama to November
  • Clinton is trying to catch Obama, but some wonder if the math is in her favor
  • Even if Obama has poor showing in Oregon and Kentucky, he may remain ahead
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From Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director
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(CNN) -- It's all about location, location, location.

Sen. Hillary Clinton will spend Tuesday night in Kentucky to celebrate what's expected to be a big win in that state's primary. But Sen. Barack Obama won't be in Oregon, even though he's favored to win that state's contest Tuesday.

The Illinois senator will appear at a rally in Iowa, where he kicked off the primary season with a January 3 caucus win -- a victory that helped propel him to Democratic front-runner status.

Iowa is also a swing state -- one President Bush won by just 10,000 votes in 2004, and one the Democrats would love to win this November.

Obama told reporters Sunday that visiting Iowa "was a terrific way to kind of bring things full circle."

"We still have some contests left, but if Kentucky and Oregon go as we hope, then we think we will have a majority of pledged delegates at that point, and that's a pretty significant mark," he said. "That means that after contests in every state, or almost every state and the territories, that we have received the majority of the delegates that are assigned by voters."

It appears that Clinton is focused on the present and Obama is looking to November.

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"Why is Hillary Clinton spending primary night in Kentucky? To savor her victory and to keep the focus on swing states Obama can't seem to win. Why is Obama spending primary night in Iowa? To celebrate in the place where it all began and to keep the focus on swing states in the November election," said Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst.

Kentucky and Oregon primaries combined hold 103 delegates. Both state's primaries are closed, which means only registered Democrats can vote in the state's Democratic primary. Clinton appears to be the overwhelming favorite in Kentucky.

The CNN poll of polls, which averages the latest public opinion surveys in the state, suggests the senator from New York leads Obama by 30 points. Polls in Kentucky close at 7 p.m. ET.

Obama is the favorite in Oregon, where a CNN poll of polls indicates he has a 10-point lead over Clinton. Oregon's primary is a mail-in only contest, which means voters there need to mail in or hand in their ballots in person by 8 p.m. (11 p.m. ET).

Obama spent the weekend campaigning in Oregon while Clinton spent four straight days in Kentucky. Both candidates have been speaking on the economy, health care, and the war in Iraq.

They also criticized Sen. John McCain, the presumed GOP presidential nominee, by linking him to President Bush. But Clinton and Obama avoided mentioning each other. Video Watch Steinhauser on McCain's strategy »

Obama's appearance in Iowa follows a similar strategy last week. Last Tuesday, as Clinton was enjoying a landslide victory in the West Virginia primary, Obama held a campaign event in Missouri, which long ago held its primary. But Missouri, like Iowa, is a battleground state that could go either way in the general election.

Besides location, Obama is also expected Tuesday night to declare that he's won a majority of the total number of pledged delegates. There are 3,253 pledged delegates, and Obama, even if he has a poor showing in the Kentucky and Oregon primaries, should easily top the 1,627 delegates needed to make that claim.

Pledged delegates are those won by the candidates in the primary and caucus contests, as opposed to 795 superdelegates, whose votes are not tied to any primary or caucus results. Superdelegates are Democratic governors, members of Congress and party officials.

Obama needs 2,026 pledged delegates to clinch the nomination. Since neither candidate is expected to win that amount by the end of the primary season on June 3, it's going to come down to the superdelegates to put either Obama or Clinton over the top.

But even though he leads Clinton in delegates won, states won, and the popular vote in the primary and caucus contests held so far this campaign season, Obama says his decision to appear in Iowa, "doesn't mean we declare victory."

"Because I won't be the nominee until we have enough -- a combination of both pledged delegates and superdelegates -- to hit the mark," Obama said. "But what it does mean is that voters have given us the majority of delegates that they can assign. And obviously that is what this primary and caucus process is about."

Obama campaigned Monday in Montana, which closes out the primary calendar, along with South Dakota, on June 3.

If the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination is almost over, Clinton isn't acting like it.

"I'm going to make [my case] 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 Monday in Kentucky.

She continues to make her argument that she leads in the popular vote. "Right now, more people have voted for me than have voted for my opponent," she said. "More people have voted for me than for anybody ever running for president before. So we have a very close contest."

But that's creative math. For Clinton to have the lead in the popular vote, primary states but not caucus states -- mostly won by Obama -- would have to be counted, plus the popular vote totals in Florida and Michigan. Obama's name wasn't on the Michigan ballot, and he received no votes in that state's contest.

Neither Florida nor Michigan's results are being counted by the Democratic Party. That's because both states broke party rules by moving their primaries up to January.

Clinton also argues that she's won the states that she contends would stack up stronger against McCain.

"The states I've won total 300 electoral votes. If we had the same rules as the Republicans, I would be nominee right now," she said. "We have different rules, so what we've got to figure out is who can win 270 electoral votes. My opponent has won states totaling 217 electoral votes."

While those totals include states like Texas and Oklahoma, which have been solid Republican territory in general elections, "I still have a cushion, if you look at all the states that I have won and take out those that may not be in our column come the fall," she said.

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"My opponent has 217 electoral votes from places like Alaska and Idaho and Utah and Kansas and Nebraska and many of his votes and his delegates come from caucus states, which have a relatively low turnout," Clinton said.

So far, though, Clinton's arguments appear to be falling on deaf ears.

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