Hillary Clinton bounces back into White House race

April 23rd, 2008 - 1:38 pm ICT by admin  

(Third Lead)
By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 23 (IANS) Hillary Clinton scored a much-needed victory over frontrunner rival Barack Obama with a fairly big margin in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary to bounce right back into the White House race. With almost all the votes counted by midnight Tuesday, the former first lady led with 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Obama, giving her a significant 10-point lead in the crucial contest though much less than she would have hoped for.

Claiming victory after a bitter six-week campaign, Clinton told cheering supporters in Philadelphia: “It’s a long road to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. (White House) and it runs right through the heart of Pennsylvania.”

The “stakes are high and the challenges are great” but “the possibilities are endless”, she said, with the crowd responding with “Yes she can! Yes she can!” - a play on Obama campaign’s trademark phrase “Yes we can!”

“The tide is turning,” she added.

Her campaign suggested that Clinton’s victory following her wins in other big states such as Ohio, New York and California should raise new questions if Obama can beat presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in November’s presidential election.

Obama congratulated his opponent at a Tuesday night rally in Evansville, Indiana. But he also implicitly chided Clinton for the negative tone of her attacks over the past week, while claiming success in defeat by making it a close race.

To close the gap “we rallied people of every age and race and background to our cause. And whether they were inspired for the first time or for the first time in a long time, we registered a record number of voters who will lead our party to victory in November”, he said.

Tuesday’s victory in Pennsylvania with a 10-point margin would split the 158 delegates at stake proportionately between the two candidates, making little change in the overall complexion of the contest.

According to CNN’s latest count, Obama leads Clinton by 1,648 to 1,504 delegates, who pick the party nominee.

But Tuesday’s victory would allow Clinton to extend her campaign at least through the next round of contests, in Indiana and North Carolina May 6, and help press her claim with super delegates, who would have to decide the party nominee if neither candidate picks up the 2,025 delegates needed to win.

Super delegates are Democratic Party delegates or elected officials who can vote at the national convention in August. They choose their vote and are not required to commit to a particular candidate before the convention.

Meanwhile, McCain rolled to a largely uncontested victory in the Republican primary. The Vietnam War veteran, who has had his party’s nomination locked up for more than a month, faced no serious opposition, although former foes Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul were still on the ballot.

With Pennsylvania offering roughly the same number of delegates as all of the other six remaining contests excluding Indiana (72 delegates), North Carolina (115) and Puerto Rico (55 delegates), the Democratic campaign turned increasingly bitter in recent days.

While Clinton questioned Obama’s readiness for office, he suggested Clinton is in the pocket of lobbyists and other special interests.

The clash reached a crescendo Monday with the release of an ad by Clinton’s campaign that used images of Pearl Harbour and Osama bin-Laden to subtly raise doubts about Obama’s readiness for office.

“It’s the toughest job in the world,” says the ad’s narrator. “You need to be ready for anything-especially now, with two wars, oil prices skyrocketing and an economy in crisis.”

Obama struck back quickly with an ad of his own-touting his own judgment in opposing the Iraq war from the start and condemning Clinton’s tactics.

“Who made the right judgment about opposing the war and had the courage and character to speak honestly about it?” the narrator of the Obama ad asks. “Who in times of challenge will unite us, not use fear and calculation to divide us?”

Media exit polls suggested the increasingly negative tone of the final days of the contest had made an impression with voters in the Democratic race.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said Clinton had “unfairly attacked” Obama while roughly half of those interviewed said Obama had attacked Clinton unfairly.

The economy remained the dominant issue - named by more than half of all voters as the most pressing issue facing the country - with Iraq and health care lagging far behind.

As has been the case almost since the beginning of the primary season, the vote was divided starkly along racial lines. Clinton won the white vote 60 percent to 40 percent while Obama claimed the black vote by a massive 92 percent to eight percent margin.

White voters made up more than 80 percent of Tuesday’s electorate while black voters comprised 13 percent.

Obama has drastically outspent Clinton in the state, a function of his huge fundraising lead over the New York senator.

At the end of March, Obama had $42.5 million in the bank as compared to just $9.3 million on hand for Clinton. Clinton’s campaign also carried more than $10 million in debt at that time, a sign that her effort is currently running in the red.

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