Hillary tied in do or die battle; McCain clinches Republican race

March 5th, 2008 - 12:04 pm ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 5 (IANS) Vietnam war veteran John McCain clinched the Republican presidential nomination even as Democratic rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama remained locked in tight races in two key contests in Texas and Ohio. But Clinton engaged in a do or die battle to keep alive her bid to be the first American woman president did break Obama’s 12-state winning streak with a victory in the Rhode Island primary Tuesday night.

Earlier, Obama, vying to be the first black US chief executive, won the Vermont primary by about 22 percentage points. Clinton had a margin of about 17 percentage points in Rhodes Island.

However, as votes were being tallied in Texas and Ohio, neither candidate appeared to hold a strong edge in either race. The early counts showed Clinton up by 20 percentage points in Ohio, while Obama was barely ahead in Texas.

On the Republican side, John McCain captured all four primaries of the night. The television networks projected that McCain has won enough delegates to clinch the nomination, and McCain’s sole remaining opponent, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, called McCain Tuesday evening to concede the race.

McCain told supporters that he accepted the nomination “with confidence, humility, and a great sense of responsibility” and acknowledged that it was “an accomplishment that once seemed to more than a few doubters unlikely”.

The one-time insurgent, whose campaign was all but dead seven months ago, had been far ahead in the delegate count and was bestowed with the unofficial title of “likely Republican nominee” since his string of victories Feb 5. Tuesday’s results put him within reach of the 1,191 delegates he needs for the nomination.

In a sign that his party is now officially rallying around him, McCain will travel to the White House Wednesday morning for a formal endorsement by President George Bush, a Republican official said Tuesday night.

Huckabee said he called McCain to concede and offer his support. “It looks pretty apparent tonight that he will in fact achieve 1,191 delegates to become the nominee for our party.”

“I extended him not only my congratulations, but my commitment to him and to the party to do everything possible to unite our party, but more importantly to unite our country so we can be the best nation we can be.”

Huckabee added, “We’ll be working on everything we can to help Senator McCain.”

McCain praised Huckabee as “a great and fine and decent American”.

In the Democratic race, while Obama is hoping to firm up his front-runner status, observers say Clinton must capture either Ohio or Texas to remain a viable candidate or risk a rapid defection within her party.

Obama, with momentum on his side, has 1,378 pledged delegates and superdelegates to Clinton’s 1,269. But neither candidate is close to the 2,025 needed to win the party nomination.

A victory in Texas or Ohio would offer a hefty trove of delegates and a crucial psychological boost for Clinton’s campaign, which has struggled to regroup from Obama’s recent spate of victories.

After polls now closed in Texas, some of the state’s Democratic voters began participating in a statewide caucus Tuesday night. That caucus will award its own slate of delegates irrespective of the results of the primary’s popular vote.

Early exit polls cited by media showed that Democratic voters in Ohio and Texas were more concerned about the weakening economy than any other issue. Obama was considered more inspiring and more likely to win in the November presidential poll, but voters in each state were also more likely to say that Clinton is more qualified to be commander-in-chief.

While Clinton projected confidence leading up to Tuesday’s contests, the Obama campaign issued reminders of statements made last month by former president Bill Clinton, who said his wife must take victories in Ohio and Texas to remain a viable candidate.

Behind the scenes, leading Obama supporters were working to persuade Democrats, particularly the superdelegates who could decide the nomination, to step forward and coalesce behind him as soon as Wednesday, according to Obama supporters and campaign officials.

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