LOGAN, West Virginia (CNN) – Political campaigns usually look to lower expectations – but one of Hillary Clinton’s supporters took the opposite tack Monday, setting the bar for a West Virginia primary win at an unprecedented high at an enthusiastic campaign event.
“You think this crowd’s noisy?” said West Virginia Senate Majority Leader Harry Truman Chafin. “Just wait ‘til we win like 80-20.”
“We’ve got to give her a vote tomorrow of 80-20 or 90-10,” he added moments later.
A campaign spokesman quickly tried to downplay Chafin’s remaks, saying “We appreciate his exuberance, but we're pretty sure this race is going to be much closer than that.”
Polls suggest Clinton will win West Virginia very easily - recent polls have shown her beating the Illinois senator by as much as 40 percentage points.
But Chafin isn’t the only one raising expectations.
Last week President Bill Clinton told a campaign crowd that ”all this stuff you are hearing about is an attempt to discourage you. That's what this is, pure and simple, hoping, 'Well, Hillary can get 80 percent of the vote in West Virginia', and if only 100,000 people show up it is not enough. But if 600,000 people show up, and you say, 'We want a president', then you will see the earth move.
There are 28 pledged delegates in play in West Virginia Tuesday, so a victory margin of 60-80 percent would allow Barack Obama to maintain a significant part of his 172 delegate lead, though it could slow his momentum.
Clinton herself didn’t completely shy away from the expectations game, calling Tuesday’s primary “a crucial turning point in this election.” She argued that voters’ primary objective should be to choose the candidate best suited to beat John McCain in the fall.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe I could be the best president for West Virginia and America and that I was the stronger candidate to take on John McCain in the fall and make sure we have a Democrat in the White House,” she said.
Obama himself seemed happy to agree with the most optimistic Clinton campaign assessments. “I think President Clinton said that they are going to get 80 percent of the vote,” he told reporters in South Charleston Monday afternoon. “We’ll take him at his word.”