WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton travels to South Dakota today for campaign stops in Aberdeen and Rapid City, but over the next 24 hours, it's likely the most critical place she will be seen is raising campaign cash at fund-raising events in California.
While trying to keep up with her opponent's lead in delegate numbers, the Clinton campaign was dealt a political setback yesterday when former Democratic contender John Edwards gave his support to Barack Obama after Edwards had declined for months to endorse either candidate.
During the speech, Edwards praised Clinton's campaign accomplishments and character, but said he ultimately favored her rival to take over the White House.
The Clinton campaign's goal for this week has been to turn her West Virginia victory over Obama into a fundraising boon as well, while affirming that West Virginia's win over Obama by 40 points showed she still had the support of Democratic voters.
But while Clinton has raised a seven figure sum from online donations after winning that state's primary on Tuesday, the endorsement by Edwards has diverted much of the attention and headlines away from her. Clinton gave 15-minute interviews to six television networks Wednesday, only to see Edwards' endorsement of Obama become the lead story on the evening news programs.
The news that Edwards would endorse Obama in Grand Rapids, Michigan, came as Clinton was hosting a fund-raiser with supporters and superdelegates at her home here on Tuesday afternoon. Less than an hour later, when Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe came out to meet with reporters, he said that none of the fundraiser guests had brought up the endorsement with her.
Clinton made no changes to her schedule and plans to continue raising as much money as possible to match her commitment of staying in the race through June 3 – a point McAuliffe is adamant about. "We have six million eligible Democrats left to vote," he said. "They're going to determine who the nominee of the Democratic Party is...it's not someone on television telling them what to do."
As to the campaign's debt, which Clinton herself has loaned at least $6 million last month to keep down, McAuliffe said he is focused on future contests and will worry about debt when the race is over.
Clinton herself made no attempt to speak with reporters last night as she left a reception outside Capitol Hill at the Sewall-Belmont House here. Asked how her evening with superdelegates went, she responded, "Hi guys," and jumped into a tinted-window SUV.