Obama scores another win over Clinton in Mississippi

March 12th, 2008 - 11:11 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 12 (IANS) With a second straight victory over rival presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in Mississippi’s Democratic primary, Barack Obama has gathered fresh steam ahead of a crucial showdown in Pennsylvania in six weeks. Tuesday’s win in Mississippi after the one in Wyoming caucuses over the weekend put Obama vying to be America’s first black president back in the winning mode after his triple loss to the former first lady in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island.

“What we’ve tried to do is steadily make sure that in each state we are making the case about the need for change in this country. Obviously the people in Mississippi responded,” Obama told CNN after his win.

Obama hoped to win a sizable number of Mississippi’s 33 delegates to wipe out most if not all of Clinton’s 11-delegate gain from last week. The Illinois senator had 1,585 delegates to 1,473 for Clinton before Tuesday’s contest. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination.

But neither of the two rivals are likely to win enough delegates through primaries and caucuses to prevail in their historic race for the nomination, giving nearly 796 super delegates - elected officials and party leaders - a decisive say in the selection of the party nominee at the Democratic national convention in August.

Mississippi’s Democratic voters were sharply divided among racial lines, exit polls indicated. As has been the case in many primary states, Obama won overwhelming support from African-American voters. They went for him over Clinton 91-9 percent.

The state has a larger proportion African-Americans (36 percent, according to the 2000 census) than any other state in the country. And black voters make up nearly 70 percent of registered Democrats.

But Mississippi’s white voters overwhelmingly backed the New York senator, supporting her over Obama 72 percent to 21 percent.

Only two other primary states were as racially polarised - neighbouring Alabama, and Clinton’s former home state of Arkansas, according to media reports.

The exit polls also indicated roughly 40 percent of Mississippi Democratic voters said race was an important factor in their vote, and 90 percent of those voters supported Obama.

Clinton’s campaign issued a statement congratulating Obama on his win, and said they “look forward to campaigning in Pennsylvania and around the country as this campaign continues”.

With the rhetoric of the candidates and their surrogates taking on an increasingly nasty, personal tone over the past few weeks, some Democrats have expressed concern that a protracted battle could hurt the party’s chances against Republican nominee John McCain in the Nov 4 general election.

One of Obama’s top policy advisors, Samantha Power, was forced to resign from the campaign last week after calling Clinton “a monster” in an interview with The Scotsman newspaper.

This week it was a Clinton surrogate in the firing line after former Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro suggested that Obama, who is vying to be the first African American president, was winning on account of his race.

Ferraro, a chief fundraiser and advisor to Clinton, told the Daily Breeze newspaper of Torrance, California, that “if Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position” of leading the nomination battle.

“And if he was a woman of any colour, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept,” she said.

Obama told CNN Tuesday that his campaign has tried to remain above the fray, and accused Clinton of taking a more personal approach.

“We’ve been very measured in terms of how we talk about Senator Clinton,” Obama said. “I’m not sure that we’ve been getting that same approach from the Clinton campaign.”

Pennsylvania with 158 delegates at stake is the next battleground for the Democrats. Holding its primary April 22, Pennsylvania will leave only nine other states and territories to weigh in the nomination contests ending June 3.

Obama campaigned in Mississippi Monday and spent part of Tuesday doing the same, while rival Clinton made a swing through the state Thursday and Friday. In addition, former President Bill Clinton made the rounds for his wife in Mississippi over the weekend.

In the closing days of the primary race, both the Clintons had suggested that while Obama was not seasoned enough to be president he would make a suitable running mate to her to give feuding Democrats what has been touted as a “dream ticket”.

Obama shot down that idea as he campaigned in Mississippi Monday, telling voters: “With all due respect, I’ve won twice as many states as Senator Clinton”.

America’s first woman speaker Nancy Pelosi too considers the idea that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could join forces in the Nov 4 presidential poll as “impossible”.

“I think that ticket either way is impossible,” Pelosi said Tuesday, pointing to comments from Clinton and her campaign that implied Republican John McCain would make a better commander-in-chief than Obama.

“I think that the Clinton administration has fairly ruled that out by proclaiming that Senator McCain would be a better commander-in-Chief than Obama,” she said.

She spoke bluntly about her view that a joint ticket was not on the cards, she said, because “I wanted to be sure I didn’t leave any ambiguity”.

The California Democrat, who has remained neutral throughout the party’s primary process, said she remains an uncommitted super delegate.

Still, according to preliminary surveys of voters leaving the polls, not all voters seemed eager to rule out the notion. Six in 10 Obama supporters said that he should select Clinton for vice president if he ultimately wins the nominating fight. And four in 10 Clinton voters said she should choose Obama if she is victorious.

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, cruised through his party’s primary in Mississippi with no opposition left following the withdrawal of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee from the race.

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