Sen. Obama can regain momentum in Wyoming, Mississippi contests

After losing two more big-state primaries Tuesday night, Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDemocrats' self-inflicted diversity vulnerability Gaetz: We didn't impeach Obama even though 'a lot of constituents' think he abused his power Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment MORE (D-Ill.) can regain his momentum and magic in the next two contests in Mississippi and Wyoming.

Both contests favor the Illinois senator, who before Tuesday had enjoyed a run of 11 victories in a row. But rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has made clear she is going to challenge Obama in both places.


Clinton was scheduled to deliver the keynote address to the Mississippi state party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner Thursday night, and former President Bill Clinton has been dispatched to both states this week.

Despite Sen. Clinton’s efforts, however, Obama has so far this year enjoyed victories in states that are similar to Wyoming and Mississippi.

Wyoming, a Western caucus state, is a model of the kind of state that has provided Obama with so many of his wins.

The Illinois senator has organized thoroughly in caucus states, winning the overwhelming majority of those contests starting with a big win in Iowa that propelled him to front-runner status.

Obama followed that up with caucus wins in Kansas, Minnesota, Washington state, North Dakota and Nebraska.

If that trend holds — and most analysts think it will — Obama will likely pick up another win Saturday in Wyoming. Obama is scheduled to campaign there Friday. Wyoming state party officials said Clinton is scheduled to campaign there also.

But the Clinton campaign does have a small staff in Wyoming. Ben Kobren, Clinton’s communications director in the state, said the campaign has 15 staffers and two offices there, one in Cheyenne and the other in Casper. Kobren said the campaign has been phone-banking extensively, making thousands of calls. It also started airing a 60-second radio ad there Wednesday night.

“Sen. Clinton believes all voters involved in the Democratic primary process deserve to have their voices heard,” Kobren said in an e-mail. “This is a competitive race and Sen. Clinton is not taking any vote or state for granted. She is excited to meet with Wyoming voters and share why she is the most qualified candidate to jump-start the economy, rebuild the middle class and be commander in chief on day one.”

Mississippi mirrors other Southern states with large black populations that have also pushed Obama to the top of the delegate leader board.

Obama cruised to victory over Clinton in South Carolina and Georgia, crushing Clinton on the strength of huge black turnout that voted overwhelmingly in his favor.

Mark Penn, Clinton’s senior strategist, acknowledged on a conference call this week that the campaign sees the Mississippi primary as an uphill battle.

“I would put Mississippi in the ‘challenging’ category,” Penn said.

But Terry Cassreino, a spokesman for the state party, said Clinton’s last-minute push has generated “an immense amount of interest and excitement.”

Cassreino acknowledged that most Democrats in the exceedingly red state had not anticipated playing much of a role in the nomination process, but the enthusiasm Democrats have shown for the two remaining candidates on a national level is being reflected in Mississippi.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

Cassreino agreed with the conventional wisdom that Obama should do well in the state, but he said the Clintons’ visits to the state could move some voters to the New York senator’s column.

“It’s kind of hard for me to pinpoint who might actually win the primary,” he said.

While Pennsylvania is the last remaining big prize on the calendar and both candidates will undoubtedly invest heavily there, smaller state victories in places like Mississippi and Wyoming are what propelled Obama to front-runner status and put him into the delegate lead.

The Clinton campaign seems to have learned from the past mistake of essentially ceding those smaller states, as they look to try and at least split the delegates available in the next two contests.

Harold Ickes, a senior adviser to Clinton, said on a conference call this week that the campaign had experienced a “dry spell” prior to Tuesday night.

The Clinton campaign said this week that it will contest every state and territory that remains on the calendar.

“We’re not going to leave any states uncontested,” Ickes said.  “We need to make an effort in any state whether or not we think we can win it.”

The Clinton campaign announced Tuesday it had raised $6 million since the beginning of March, with $4 million coming in since the New York senator’s Tuesday night victories.

The campaign will likely devote most of its resources to the critical April 22 Pennsylvania contest, but a Clinton spokesman said Thursday that the campaign would still like to take advantage of the support it’s seeing at the local levels.

“We’re going to work hard to harness the outpouring of grassroots support for Sen Clinton throughout these states,” Blake Zeff, a Clinton spokesman, said in an e-mail Thursday.

Mike Sherry contributed to this article.