Hillary Clinton stays in White House race with Pennsylvania win

April 23rd, 2008 - 12:19 pm ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)
By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 23 (IANS) Hillary Clinton has won a much-needed victory in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary with not as big a margin as she hoped for, but big enough to keep her very much in the White House race. With over 80 percent of the votes counted a couple of hours after polls in the state closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday (5.30 a.m. IST Wednesday), the former first lady led with 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent for frontrunner rival Barack Obama.

Claiming victory after a bitter seven-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.”

“I’m in this race to fight for you … You know you can count on me to stand up strong for you every single day in the White House.”

“The tide is turning,” she said, with her campaign suggesting the victory following her wins in other big states such as Ohio, New York and California should raise new questions about whether Obama can beat presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in November’s presidential election.

The relatively close finish in Pennsylvania would proportionately split the 158 delegates at stake between the two candidates, making little change in the overall complexion of the contest. 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.

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.

They would have to decide the party nominee if neither candidate picks up the 2,025 delegates needed to win by the end of primary season June 3.

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?”

Preliminary exit polling 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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