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West Virginia exit polls show division among Dems

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Written on 4:08 PM by yahoo

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Almost as many of Hillary Clinton's West Virginia supporters would vote for John McCain as would for Barack Obama, exit polls show.

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Sen. Barack Obama has been looking ahead to states that could play key roles in the general election.

If Obama were the Democratic nominee, 36 percent of Clinton supporters would vote for him in the fall, the polls found.

But 35 percent said they'd cast their vote for McCain instead.

Obama leads Clinton in pledged delegates, in superdelegates and in the popular vote.

A bare majority of his West Virginia supporters -- 51 percent -- said they would back Clinton in the fall, but 31 percent said they'd vote for McCain.

A big win for Clinton in West Virginia could raise doubts about Obama's electability in the general election.

She is expected to win the state by a wide margin, but with only 28 delegates at stake, she will not cut significantly into his lead in the delegate count.

As polling places across West Virginia opened at 6:30 a.m., Clinton had a 40-point lead in the most recent public opinion polls, according to an average of them.

She was to be in Charleston, West Virginia, on Tuesday night for an expected victory celebration.

With a relatively large percentage of older voters and blue-collar workers, a dearth of upscale voters and a tiny African-American population, West Virginia appears to be a perfect demographic fit for Clinton.
But even a landslide victory in tiny West Virginia may not be enough to blunt Obama's momentum.

She trails Obama in delegates won, states won and the popular vote this primary season. Clinton also now trails Obama when it comes to the support of superdelegates, and her campaign is $20 million in the red.
On Tuesday, Obama appeared to be looking ahead to a general election fight with McCain.

Instead of campaigning in West Virginia, he planned to be in Washington to vote for a bill meant to protect the collective bargaining rights of police officers and firefighters. He was to then travel to Missouri and Michigan for campaign events.

Both states have voted this primary season but are considered swing states that Democrats and Republicans have in their sights for November.

Clinton said she's fighting on, telling a West Virginia crowd Sunday that "I guess my favorite message was from a woman named Angela. 'Keep strong,' she said, 'it's not over until the lady in the pantsuit says it is.' "

Like elsewhere in the country, the West Virginia voters are dealing with tough economic times.

According to exit polls, the economy is the top issue among the state's Democratic voters.

And that's not lost on Clinton, who is touting her plan, which was first proposed by McCain, to repeal the federal gas tax this summer.

"I want to give you a gas tax holiday this summer, and I want the oil companies to pay the gas tax out of their record profits," Clinton told West Virginia voters Monday. "Now, you may have heard something about this on the news, because it's controversial. My opponent, Sen. Obama, says, 'Oh, no, that's just a gimmick; that's not going to help people.' "

But tough talk like that seems to be the exception. Since last Tuesday, when she eked out a victory in Indiana but lost by double digits in North Carolina, Clinton appears to have toned down her rhetoric about her rival.

Clinton continues to tout her electability, saying she's the stronger candidate to go up against McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, in November.

"I'm winning Catholic voters and Hispanic voters and blue-collar workers and seniors, the kind of people that Sen. McCain will be fighting for in the general election," Clinton said.

Clinton is also using electoral history to make her case.

"I think it's fair to say that West Virginia is a test. It's a test for me, and it's a test for Sen. Obama, because for too long we have let places like West Virginia slip out of the Democratic column. And you know it is a fact that no Democratic president has ever won the White House since 1916 without winning West Virginia," Clinton said.

Bill Clinton won West Virginia in 1992 and 1996. George W. Bush took the state in 2000 and 2004.

Obama acknowledges that he will not win in West Virginia. Monday's single campaign event was his only campaign stop in the state in recent weeks.

He told the audience gathered at the Charleston Civic Center that "I'm extraordinarily honored that some of you will support me, and I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Sen. Clinton.

After West Virginia, the campaign trail moves to Kentucky and Oregon, which vote in one week. Clinton is expected to do well in Kentucky, but Obama is the favorite to win Oregon.

cnn

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