Clinton vows to keep running as Obama nears milestone (Lead)

May 21st, 2008 - 12:38 pm ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 21 (IANS) Hillary Clinton vowed to continue her uphill battle in the Democratic presidential race after a facile victory in the Kentucky primary even as rival Barack Obama tightened his grip on the trophy with a projected win in Oregon. The former first lady’s victory in Kentucky Tuesday by a decisive 35 point margin is unlikely to keep Obama from reaching a coveted milestone in the race: capturing a majority of his party’s pledged delegates in primaries and caucuses.

Winning Kentucky by 65 percent to 30 percent with support from the state’s white working-class voters, Clinton told a cheering crowd that “we’ve achieved an important victory” and she had no plans to drop out of the race.

“It’s not just the Kentucky bluegrass that is music to my ears - it’s the sound of your overwhelming vote of confidence even in the face of tough odds,” she said. “You’ve never given up on me, because you know I’ve never given up on you.” But Obama, who was 17 delegates short of a majority of pledged delegates available nationwide, was certain to cross the threshold from his proportionate share of 51 delegates from Kentucky and a majority of 52 delegates from Oregon.

Obama, who would be the first African-American nominated for national office by a major political party, was projected the winner in Oregon within minutes of the poll closing at 8 p.m. (8:30 a.m. IST Wednesday). In early returns, he was leading by 61 per cent to 39 percent vote - a 12 point margin in Oregon.

Before Tuesday’s vote Obama had already garnered the support of 1612 pledged delegates won at primaries and caucuses and 292 super delegates or key party officials not bound by primary results. With a total of 1904 delegates, he was just 121 short of the magic number of 2,026 needed to clinch the nomination.

But despite trailing Obama across all fronts - pledged delegates, super delegates, states won and the popular vote - Clinton with only 1717 delegates, including 274 super delegates, has refused to heed growing calls to drop out of the race.

By winning a majority of the pledged delegates, Obama is likely to gain another argument in favour of bringing the prolonged nominating fight to a close even as Clinton hopes to still convince the party leadership that she is more electable in the November presidential election.

In a sign he was ready to pivot to the November poll, Obama scheduled his victory rally Tuesday night not in Portland but in Des Moines, returning to the state where a victory in the Iowa caucuses opened the political season four months ago and sent his presidential bid soaring. Iowa is also a swing state for November.

Three contests remain: primaries in Puerto Rico on June 1 and in Montana and South Dakota on June 3. The party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet May 31 to try to settle a divisive final dispute: whether to seat delegates from Michigan and Florida, elected in primaries held earlier than Democratic rules allowed.

Obama has stopped short of declaring the nomination battle over - a step that Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson warns would be “a slap in the face to the millions of voters in the remaining primary states and to Clinton’s 17 million supporters.”

Meanwhile, a daily Gallup tracking poll released Tuesday had more good news for Obama. In a survey taken Friday through Sunday, he led Clinton among Democrats by a record 16-point margin, 55 percent-39 percent.

What’s more, he had erased Clinton’s edge nationwide among whites, Hispanics, women and working-class Americans - groups that have been the backbone of her campaign. Among major demographic groups, only women 50 and older still gave Clinton majority support.

Jeff Jones, managing editor of the Gallup Poll, says the findings, which had been steady over several days, could represent a turning point in the race. He says Democrats “may be starting to rally around him” as news accounts portray Obama as the likely nominee.

“We see every day a drip-drip-drip of superdelegates to Obama,” says Democratic strategist Bill Carrick. “Looks like it’s becoming a stream here.”

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