Obama wins NC Democratic primary

Clinton wins in Indiana
May 6, 2008 10:15:08 PM PDT
Barack Obama maintained his frontrunner status with a big win in North Carolina Tuesday night. In Indiana, where Hillary Clinton was in the lead all night, she was finally declared the winner just after midnight. There was a problem with the vote count in Lake County, Indiana, where no results had been reported before 10 p.m. The county includes the city of Gary.

The goal of the Obama campaign was simple: Win the bigger of the two states, North Carolina, by more than they lose the smaller of the two, Indiana, so the net result will be a widening of the lead with delegates and popular votes with only a few states left in play. Regardless of how it comes out in Indiana, they exceeded those expectations and said the Democratic nom nation is virtually inevitable.

The celebration of a landslide victory in North Carolina begins with an aptly titled Bruce Springsteen song "The Rising." As Barack and Michelle Obama took the stage, the Democratic frontrunner couldn't resist a dig at rival Clinton's plea to the voters to make it a game-changing state for her.

"There are those that were saying North Carolina would be a game changer in this election. But today, what North Carolina decided is that the only game that needs changing is the one in Washington, D.C," said Obama.

The Obamas seemed to be on autopilot, tempered by a bit of high-octane fuel. They were rewarded with an overwhelming victory to the delight of their supporters in North Carolina.

"I'm very happy. And it means that good can triumph over evil," said Obama supporter Mary Coleman.

"Hopefully it will send a message for the rest of the country," said Obama supporter Joe Bearden. "Obama should get the nomination."

"When it comes to big states, North Carolina is the 10th biggest state in the country. You hear her talking about New Jersey and Massachusetts. Both are smaller than North Carolina," said Robert Gibbs, Obama communications director.

Indiana seemed to be a lot tougher despite an attempt to meet working-class voters where they eat, drink and play and to try to put the Reverend Wright controversy behind him.

"Voters here sent a strong message for Obama, for change, continued our momentum," said Gibbs.

"Tonight we stand less than 200 delegates away from securing the Democratic nomination for president of the United States," Obama said.

The rest of the Obama speech sounded more like acceptance of the Democratic nomination than reacting to two primaries. And in fact they do feel they are a step closer. They believe there will be more super delegates coming their way more quickly, adding to that sense that the nomination is inevitable.

Senator Clinton addressed supporters in Indianapolis, and she sounded as though she was thrilled with this win, although it was not as big of a margin as she had hoped. But it does keep her campaign alive. She said that no matter what happens, she'll work for the Democratic nominee, but then just like that, she was back to the old, scrappy campaigner that she has shown to be for months on the trail, saying this win in Indiana is just the first of more to come.

"My opponent made a prediction. He said I would probably win Pennsylvania. He would win North Carolina. And Indiana would be the tiebreaker. Well?" Clinton said. "Tonight, we come from behind. We have broken the tie and thanks to you, it is full speed on to the White House."

Clinton needed the win in Indiana.

"You have to remember, we were 10-15 points down. Hillary came in and talked about jobs and gas prices, the things Indiana voters care about," said Terry McAuliffe, Clinton campaign chairman.

Two thirds of Indiana voters polled Tuesday said the economy is their top concern. Clinton's populist message proved popular in rural areas. Obama did well in and around Indianapolis and South Bend. But Sen. Clinton continued her streak of wooing the white working-class. Outside of Chicago, she picked up Porter County and a few towns fairly close to Obama's back yard.

"It's been tough, especially being a woman and minority, it's been difficult," said Priti Patwari, Clinton supporter from Munster.

"Just didn't offer what I needed as a voter," said 22-year-old Matt Michler, a Clinton supporter from Chesterton of Obama.

In both states, roughly half of the voters said comments by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright did not influence their vote. But Jerry Gomez said it mattered to him.

"He was, you know, in that church for over 20 years, and I'm sure Reverend Wright didn't just start talking that way now," said Gomez.

The Clinton team is talking about a new finish line in this race - the delegates from Michigan and Florida that need to be seated. They are encouraging supporters and reporters to use that as the sign for victory. Some would call that fuzzy math.

McAuliffe said it doesn't matter whether it is Obama or Clinton, both will need the support of super delegates. Courting them is as important as courting voters in Indiana and Kentucky.

Exit polling in the two states show a similar reason for results. In Indiana, white, working-class voters went for Clinton. Late deciders went for Clinton 58-42. Nearly half of the voters said the Reverend Wright controversy was important to them and they went for Clinton 72-27.

In North Carolina, about one-third of voters were African American. Obama got 91 percent of that vote. He did better among late deciders in North Carolina; they split that vote 50-50. First-time voters in North Carolina made up 19 percent of the total and Obama won that group 68-28. Obama won at least 55 delegates and Clinton at least 46 in the two states, with 86 still to be awarded.

The economy was the top issue by far in both states, according to interviews with voters as they left their polling places.

Two weeks after a decisive defeat in Pennsylvania, Obama sounded increasingly like he was looking forward to the fall campaign.

"This primary season may not be over, but when it is, we will have to remember who we are as Democrats ... because we all agree that at this defining moment in history -- a moment when we're facing two wars, an economy in turmoil, a planet in peril -- we can't afford to give John McCain the chance to serve out George Bush's third term."

Clinton was joined at her rally by her husband Bill, his face sunburned after hours spent campaigning in small-town North Carolina, and their daughter, Chelsea.

She stressed the issue that came to dominate the final days of the primaries in both states, her call for a summertime suspension of the federal gasoline tax. "I think it's time to give Americans a break this summer," she said.

In North Carolina, Clinton won 60 percent of the white vote.

There are 217 delegates at stake in the six primaries yet to come. Another 270 superdelegates remain uncommitted.

Obama has long led Clinton among delegates won in the primaries and caucuses, and has increasingly narrowed his deficit among superdelegates who will attend the convention by virtue of their status as party leaders. The AP tally showed Clinton with 269.5 superdelegates, and Obama with 255.

In Indiana, about one in five voters said they were independents, an additional one in 10 said Republican.

Only Democrats and unaffiliated voters were permitted to vote in North Carolina.

Voting in Indiana was carried out under a state law, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, that requires voters to produce a valid photo ID. About a dozen nuns in their 80s and 90s at St. Mary's Convent in South Bend were denied ballots because they lacked the necessary identification.

Clinton saved her candidacy with her win in Pennsylvania, and she campaigned aggressively in Indiana in hopes of denying Obama a victory next door to his home state of Illinois. Indiana is home to large numbers of blue-collar workers who have been attracted to the former first lady, and she sought to use her call for a federal gas tax holiday to draw them and other economically pinched voters closer.

Inevitably, the issue quickly took on larger dimensions.

Obama said it symbolized a candidacy consisting of "phony ideas, calculated to win elections instead of actually solving problems."

Clinton retorted, "Instead of attacking the problem, he's attacking my solutions," and ran an ad in the campaign's final hours that said she "gets it."

The balance of the primary schedule includes West Virginia, with 28 delegates on May 13; Oregon with 52 and Kentucky with 51 a week later; Puerto Rico with 55 delegates on June 1, and Montana with 16 and South Dakota with 15 on June 3.

Sen. McCain of Arizona, the Republican nomination already in hand, campaigned in North Carolina and assailed Obama for his vote against confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts.

"Senator Obama in particular likes to talk up his background as a lecturer on law, and also as someone who can work across the aisle to get things done," McCain said. "But ... he went right along with the partisan crowd, and was among the 22 senators to vote against this highly qualified nominee."

Clinton also voted against Roberts, but McCain, as is often the case, focused his remarks on Obama.

Obama's campaign responded that the Republican would pick judges who represent a threat to abortion rights and to McCain's own legislation to limit the role of money in political campaigns.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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