Obama scores big win in smallest state

March 9th, 2008 - 10:17 am ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)
By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 9 (IANS) Barack Obama, vying to be America’s first black president, returned to his winning ways with a victory in the country’s least populated state, routing rival Hillary Clinton in Wyoming’s Democratic caucuses. Obama won the first state to hold a contest since Clinton bidding to be the first woman to take the White House won three of four states March 4 in a close, bitter race for the party’s presidential nomination.

The former First Lady’s victories in Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas snapping Obama’s streak of 11 straight primary wins gave her campaign a much-needed boost, as she had not won a state since Feb 5 Super Tuesday.

The Illinois senator, who now leads the nominating contest by 110 delegates, won seven of the Cowboy State’s 12 pledged delegates after defeating Clinton by about a three-to-two margin. He led with 58 percent of the vote to her 41 percent, with 91 percent of precincts reporting.

Backed by two of the state’s six super delegates, party officials and holders of elected offices, Obama raised his tally to 1,578 against Clinton’s 1,468 Saturday night, according to the latest count. To win the nomination, 2,025 delegates are needed.

Obama’s Saturday win followed a pattern for the campaign, in that he continued his strong showings in small states, Republican states and caucus states, where party supporters chose their delegates at informal meetings instead of voting. Wyoming is all three.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters in a conference call that only Democrats voted Saturday, a situation where Clinton typically has done better, and that Obama won the contest even though Clinton had campaigned actively in the state.

“This is a very important win for us,” Plouffe said. “This is now our 30th contest where we’ve won the delegates.”

The Clinton campaign downplayed the outcome, instead saying Clinton beat expectations with her showing.

“We are thrilled with this near split in delegates and are grateful to the people of Wyoming for their support,” campaign manager Maggie Williams said.

Wyoming held staggered caucuses throughout the day, with the final results coming in at around 6 p.m. Obama dominated the larger counties, including Albany and Freemont Counties, which provided much of the margin of victory.

Obama is again a heavy favourite in the next contest Tuesday in Mississippi, where 33 delegates and seven super delegates will be awarded. Then the candidates brace for a six-week battle in Pennsylvania, which awards 159 delegates in its April 22 primary.

Meanwhile, even as Clinton’s campaign attacked Obama, for failing to “deliver on his promises,” her husband, former President Bill Clinton said Saturday that a joint ticket pairing the two would be “almost unstoppable.”

The former president referred to his wife’s own comments that indicated a willingness to consider the prospect. “She said yesterday and she said the day after her big wins in Texas and Ohio and Rhode Island that she was very open to that and I think she answered explicitly ‘Yes’ yesterday,” said Clinton during a Mississippi campaign appearance.

“I know that she has always been open to it, because she believes that if you can unite the energy and the new people that he’s brought in and the people in these vast swaths of small town and rural America that she’s carried overwhelmingly, if you had those two things together she thinks it’d be hard to beat.”

He added that, in his view, Obama would win the “urban areas and the upscale voters” while Clinton claims “the traditional rural areas that we lost when President Ronald Reagan was president. If you put those two things together, you’d have an almost unstoppable force.”

Hillary Clinton told a CBS interviewer earlier this week, shortly after she ended a string of 11 losses with wins in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island, that a joint ticket “may be where this is headed. But of course we have to decide who is on the top of ticket. I think the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me.”

The New York senator has made the suggestion in other interviews, as have her supporters. On Friday, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told the National Journal that it was important for the winner of the Democratic nomination to make the offer to the runner-up this year.

The Obama team has largely avoided making similar statements. In an interview with CNN affiliate KTVQ, Obama called the notion “premature,” saying he has won twice as many states as Clinton and a greater share of the popular vote, and he believes he can maintain a delegate lead.

“You won’t see me as a vice presidential candidate, you know, I’m running for president,” said Obama.

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