Obama nears Democratic nomination; Clinton still running (Second lead)

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

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 21 (IANS) Barack Obama moved closer to making history as the first black presidential nominee with an emphatic win in Oregon Democratic primary overshadowing rival Hillary Clinton’s equally facile win in Kentucky. But the former first lady vowed to continue her uphill battle even as Obama with a 61 per cent to 39 percent vote victory in Oregon reached a coveted milestone in the race - capturing a majority of his party’s pledged delegates in primaries and caucuses.

As leading TV stations projected him the winner in Oregon within minutes of the poll closing at 8 p.m. Tuesday(8:30 a.m. IST Wednesday), Obama returned to Iowa to hold his victory rally in a state that had sent his presidential bid soaring with a victory over Clinton in the very first caucus in January.

“We have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in America,” said Obama, standing in front of a moonlit Capitol in Des Moines.

“The sceptics predicted we wouldn’t get very far,” he said. “The cynics dismissed us as a lot of hype and a little too much hope. And by the fall, the pundits in Washington had all but counted us out. But the people of Iowa had a different idea.”

Obama, however, 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.” Instead, he offered her lavish praise.

“Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age, and for that we are grateful to her,” he said.

By winning a majority of the pledged delegates, Obama gained another argument in favour of bringing the prolonged nominating fight to a close even as Clinton still hopes to convince the party leadership that she has a better chance of defeating certain Republican nominee John McCain in the November presidential election.

Winning Kentucky with a decisive 35 point 65 percent to 30 percent margin with support from the state’s white working-class voters, Clinton told a cheering crowd in Louisville that “we’ve achieved an important victory” and she had no plans to drop out of the race.

“I’m going to keep making our case until we have a nominee - whoever she may be,” she said. “We have to select a nominee who is best positioned to win in November and someone who is best prepared to address the enormous challenges in these difficult times.”

“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,” Clinton 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.

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 to clinch the nomination.

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.

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.

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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