CHICAGO — Barack Obama overwhelmed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Wyoming Democratic presidential caucuses Saturday, scoring a decisive win that allows him to move beyond his disappointing primary election showings earlier in the week in Texas and Ohio.
The victory was expected and welcomed for the Illinois senator after one of his toughest weeks on the campaign trail. He has faced second-guessing from some supporters about his losses in several big states and his appetite for striking back at Clinton without endangering his image as a new-era politician.
He plans to ride Saturday’s double-digit win into Mississippi on Monday, one day before its primary, which he is also expected to take.
“This is a big win for us,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters in a conference call Saturday night. “You saw very furious campaigning by the Clinton campaign. They had more campaign activity than we did heading into Wyoming. They mounted a very aggressive effort on the ground. This is a very important win for us.”
Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams said the New York senator beat expectations, picking up five delegates to Obama's seven.
“Although the Obama campaign predicted victory in Wyoming weeks ago,” Williams said in a statement, “we worked hard to present Senator Clinton’s vision to the caucus-goers, and we thank them for turning out today.”
As Obama heads to Pennsylvania with its April 22 primary, even a two-state winning streak — in Wyoming and Mississippi — may not eliminate one of the key questions likely to hang over his candidacy for the next six weeks: Can he take large, traditionally Democratic states?
Obama, who was home in Chicago with no public events Saturday, has rejected viewing the campaign through the prism of large states versus small states, saying his strategy of racking up wins in Republican states helps expand the universe of battlegrounds where the Democrats can compete in the fall.
Plouffe said Saturday’s win out West offered “evidence that Senator Obama is going to be able to put more states in play because of his strength with independent voters.”
“Even in states where we would not win the states with electoral votes,” Plouffe said, “we are going to provide a better climate for down-ballot candidates.”
And as he often does, Plouffe told reporters that, in the end, the race is about delegates.
Clinton netted six delegates in Tuesday's contests in Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas, where Obama lost the primary but won the caucuses, Plouffe said.
But with just one state — Wyoming — Obama won back a third of those delegates, netting two in Saturday’s caucuses, Plouffe said.
Obama has generally outperformed Clinton in caucus states, which reward organization. His campaign arrived in Wyoming earlier than Clinton’s and opened five offices across the state.
After Obama gained his pledged delegate lead in part by focusing on smaller, predominantly Republican states, Clinton has been less willing to cede areas to him.
So she made an effort in Wyoming, appearing Friday in Casper and Cheyenne, and placing five staff members on the ground. Former President Bill Clinton made three stops there Thursday.
“I think we can win,” Kathy Karpan, a former Democratic candidate for governor and leading Clinton supporter in Wyoming, told Politico last week. She cited “the connection that the Clintons have with people in our state,” a network of support built during their White House years when they vacationed at Jackson Hole.
“We are going to do very well with the rank and file,” Karpan said. “The question is, will those people who get captivated by e-mails” — Obama supporters — “be willing to sit through the call to order, the nominating and seconding speeches. It takes a littl bit of patience and interest in the process to do this.”
With nearly all the results in Saturday night, Obama was leading Clinton by 19 percentage points.