M A I N   N E W S

Obama on target, faint hope for Hillary
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Barack Obama coasted to a convincing double-digit victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton in North Carolina last night, but lost Indiana’s primary to the New York Democrat by two points.

The big victory for Obama pushed him closer to securing his party’s presidential nomination, while Clinton’s comparatively less convincing triumph will brighten her faint chances.

Addressing a raucous rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, Obama said, “Tonight we stand less than 200 delegates away from winning the Democratic nomination for the President of the United States”. With 100 per cent of the vote counted in North Carolina, Obama led Clinton 56 per cent to 41 per cent. A candidate needs 2,025 delegates to win the Democratic nomination. The Clinton camp now says 2,209 delegates are needed to secure the nomination.

A total of 187 pledged delegates were at stake in the two states - 115 in North Carolina and 72 in Indiana. The win in North Carolina will give Obama the larger share of the state’s 115 delegates and wipe out Clinton’s gains made in Pennsylvania last month. After these contests, 217 elected delegates will up for grabs in the remaining six contests ending in early June.

While Obama congratulated Clinton on winning Indiana even before the state result was declared, Clinton claimed victory saying it “was full speed on to the White House”. She said Obama had recently predicted that Indiana would be the tiebreaker in their battle. “Well, tonight we've come from behind. We've broken the tie, and thanks to you, it's full speed on to the White House," she told cheering supporters. With 99 per cent of the vote counted in Indiana, Clinton led Obama 51 per cent to 49 per cent.

Clinton's camp admits she cannot overtake Obama in the count of pledged delegates, but is trying to persuade the so-called super-delegates, who are free to vote for either candidate, that she, not Obama, can beat the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee John McCain in November.

Obama took an overwhelming 91 per cent of the black vote in North Carolina, according to exit polls, while Clinton claimed only 6 per cent. The former first lady took 59 per cent of the white votes compared to 36 per cent for Obama.

Both campaigns attacked each other in the run up to Tuesday's crucial election. A Clinton proposal of a federal gas tax holiday was the focus of the campaign.

Obama said it symbolised a candidacy consisting of “phony ideas, calculated to win elections instead of actually solving problems”. Clinton fired back, “Instead of attacking the problem, he's attacking my solutions.”

In Raleigh, Obama said the state's voters had rebuked “the politics of division and distraction,” “the same old negative attacks” and "gimmicks." The Obama campaign had become bogged down in racially incendiary remarks by the senator's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.



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