Advantage Obama after Wisconsin and Hawaii victories

February 20th, 2008 - 11:10 pm ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)
By Parveen Chopra
New York, Feb 20 (IANS) Barack Obama decisively beat Hillary Clinton in the Wisconsin primary and Hawaii caucuses, registering 10 consecutive wins, increasing his overall lead over the former first lady in the race for the Democratic nomination for presidential polls. Cutting into Clinton’s support base among women and blue-collar workers, Obama Tuesday accelerated his momentum ahead of the primaries in the big states of Ohio and Texas March 4.

With 99 percent of the electoral precincts in Wisconsin reporting by Wednesday morning, Senator Obama of Illinois had 58 percent of the vote to New York Senator Clinton’s 41 percent.

With all results clocked in Hawaii, where Obama spent his formative years, he won comfortably with 76 percent vote, defeating Clinton at 24 percent.

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain won in Wisconsin with 55 percent of the vote to former Arizona governor Mike Huckabee’s 37 percent.

In Washington state, with 57 percent results in, McCain led with a larger margin - 49 percent to Huckabee’s 22 percent.

Washington Democrats voted in a primary, too, but their delegates were picked earlier in the month in caucuses won by Obama.

McCain with 918 delegates is closer to his goal of winning the 1,191 delegates needed to seal the Republican Party’s nomination for president.

“I will be our party’s nominee for president of the United States,” McCain declared at a victory speech in Ohio.

Huckabee with 217 delegates has little chance statistically to win the nomination but has vowed to remain in the race until McCain crosses the delegate threshold needed to secure the nomination.

As for the delegates of the Democratic Party, Obama, who was trailing as recently as after the Feb 5 primaries in 22 states, is now clearly ahead of Clinton.

The delegate counts being complex in the party, media agencies show varied numbers. According to CNN, Obama has 1,301 pledged and the so-called super delegates till date to 1,239 of Clinton.

To win the party’s nomination, a candidate will need the support of 2,025 out of total 4,049 delegates at the Democratic National Convention scheduled for August.

While Wisconsin had 74 pledged delegates in play, Hawaii had 20. Next to come, Ohio and Texas have 370 convention delegates in all.

Obama is building momentum with each victory, and recent polls have suggested that Clinton’s once-large lead in Ohio and Texas is shrinking.

In Wisconsin, exit polls found that Democrats believed Obama would be more likely than Clinton, by 63 percent to 37 percent, to defeat the Republican nominee in the Nov 4 presidential election.

Worried about Obama’s continuing surge and the realisation that polls in Ohio and Texas and in Pennsylvania April 22 have become a must win for her, Clinton has signalled that she would take a tougher line on Obama.

In a speech in Ohio after the Wisconsin poll, she alluded to what her campaign considers Obama’s lack of experience and his chances of defeating the Republican opponent.

Clinton told supporters that either she or Obama “would make history” if they won the nomination. “But only one of us is ready on day one to be commander-in-chief, ready to manage our economy, and ready to defeat the Republicans,” she said.

“Only one of us has spent 35 years being a doer, a fighter and a champion for those who need a voice. That is what I would bring to the White House. That is the choice in this election,” she added.

Bitterness between her and Obama was much in evidence in the run-up to the Wisconsin primary. She set it off by attacking Obama for his refusal to debate in the state and hitting out on his alleged lack of solutions on health care and social security. She even accused Obama of plagiarising portions of a recent speech.

Obama struck back with advertisements of his own that decried Clinton’s negative tactics as nothing more than politics as usual.

The Obama campaign’s mass mail to his supporters after the Wisconsin victory read: “The people of Wisconsin have rejected an onslaught of negative attacks and attempts to distract them from the common concerns we all have about the direction of our country.

“No doubt we’ll hear much more of these attacks and distractions in the days to come. But the noise of these tired, old political games will not drown out the voices of millions calling for change.”

In his victory speech in Houston, Texas, where he was campaigning, Obama said: “The problem that we face in America is not a lack of good ideas. It’s that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die.”

Analysts now consider Obama the frontrunner to win his party’s nomination unless he makes some major mistakes in the campaign ahead.

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