Clinton not yet ready to quit as Obama nears finish line (Lead)

June 3rd, 2008 - 10:32 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 3 (IANS) As the five-month long marathon for Democratic presidential nomination comes to an end Tuesday with Barack Obama tantalisingly close to the finish line, Hillary Clinton appeared in no mood to give up as yet. Frontrunner Obama hopes to claim victory after Tuesday’s contests in South Dakota and Montana with the help of super delegates waiting in the wings to come to his aid to make up the shortfall in his tally to reach the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination

He expects to pick up about 20 of the 31 pledged delegates at stake Tuesday, leaving him about two dozen short of the magic number, but he is counting on super delegates, party officials not bound by primary results, to make up the difference.

Clinton sent mixed signals about her plans Monday. As her campaign recalled field staffers to New York, one adviser indicated that she would suspend, but not end, her campaign within days.

But the former first lady herself said she will continue to argue to the group of party insiders who hold the balance of power in the nomination process that her strong showing in recent contests demonstrates that she would be the more electable candidate in November against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.

“Tomorrow is the last day of the primaries and the beginning of a new phase in the campaign,” Clinton said in Yankton, South Dakota, before she prepared to depart for a Tuesday-night rally in New York.

“After South Dakota and Montana vote, I will lead in the popular vote and Senator Obama will lead in the delegate count. The voters will have voted, and so the decision will fall to the delegates empowered to vote at the Democratic convention. I will be spending the coming days making my case to those delegates.”

Party leaders were reported to be working behind the scenes to establish an outcome that would limit the long-term damage from the protracted and divisive campaign, hoping to provide a quick and graceful exit for Clinton and clear the path for the first African American presidential nominee.

Campaigning Monday in Michigan, a key November battleground, Obama said he considers Clinton a valued ally in his general-election contest against McCain. Clinton ran “an outstanding race,” Obama told a packed crowd in Detroit. He vowed, “She and I will be working together in November.”

Obama also recounted for reporters a telephone conversation he had with Clinton on Sunday in which he congratulated her for winning the Puerto Rico primary.

He said he told her that “once the dust settled, I was looking forward to meeting her at a time and place of her choosing” to talk about the campaign’s next phase. In the meantime, he added, “we’ve still got two more contests to go.”

As Clinton made a final push for votes across South Dakota, her advisers said her options ranged from dropping out Tuesday night and endorsing Obama to making a final effort to convince uncommitted super delegates that she would be a stronger rival to McCain.

Another, according to senior Clinton advisers, is what they dubbed the “middle option,” for Clinton to suspend her campaign, acknowledging that Obama has crossed the delegate threshold but keeping her options open until the convention in late August.

Advisers said she is looking at historical precedent while weighing her recent victories, including her landslide win in Puerto Rico, in trying to sort out what to do.

Clinton has been angered by recent calls for her to quit, her advisers said, and the “soft landing” of suspending her campaign would allow her to move ahead on her own terms.

Speaking to reporters in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, spokesman Mo Elleithee was unequivocal, saying that Clinton intends to spend the next several days “making the case to undecided delegates” and adding: “She’s in this race until we have a nominee. She expects to be that nominee.”

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