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A Thought About West Virginia

In retrospect, Barack Obama may be lucky he didn't win Indiana last week. Why? Suppose he had--there would have been immense pressure on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race, which she might have done. Given that around seven percent of West Virginia Democratic primary voters pulled the lever for John Edwards, who dropped out of the race more than three months ago, there's a pretty decent chance Obama would have lost West Virginia, or at the very least would have come up short of 50 percent. And as bad as tonight's results look for him (even though it's yet one more instance of the essentially unchanging demography-is-destiny story in the Democratic race), surely it would have been far worse to lose to Hillary if she had already conceded the race. As it stands now, he'll be able to take his licks in West Virginia and Kentucky without being totally humiliated, then make a victory declaration of sorts after a win in Oregon. That's about as reasonable an outcome as he could have hoped for, given that the quirks of the primary calendar put two of his worst states in the union at this juncture in the race. (Random question: Oregon uses mail-in ballots, so there are no exit polls. Will the networks be able to project him the winner early enough in the night for him to make a speech at a reasonable hour?)

If, in fact, it was the antics of Rush Limbaugh that put Hillary over the top in Indiana, it may well be that El Rushbo was the only thing standing between Obama and a deeply embarrassing loss to a non-candidate. The joys of unintended consequences.

--Josh Patashnik