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Stalemated Democratic race enters final stretch PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 April 2008

AFP, WASHINGTON - Democrats braced for weeks more of bitter fighting Wednesday after Hillary Clinton scored a solid win over Barack Obama in Pennsylvania's presidential primary, keeping her fragile White House hopes alive.

Hillary Clinton secured 55 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania The former first lady claimed a groundswell of new support, with three million dollars in fresh campaign cash raised online since her 10-point victory Tuesday, and made it clear she was in the marathon race for the duration.

"We won a critically important victory tonight in Pennsylvania. It's a giant step forward that will transform the landscape of the presidential race," the former first lady said in a jubilant note to supporters late Tuesday. "You know, some people counted me out and wanted me to drop out," she told a victory rally earlier.

"Well, the American people do not quit, and they deserve an American president who does not quit either." With nearly all votes counted, Clinton snapped up 55 percent of the vote to 45 for Obama in her bid to be the first woman president of the United States.

She faced formidable obstacles as the race entered the final stretch of nine contests in six weeks, including closely watched contests in midwestern Indiana and the southern state of North Carolina on May 6. Clinton, 60, still trails Obama in states won, pledged delegates, fundraising and the popular vote.

But she argued that her double-digit win in Pennsylvania would weigh heavily among the 800 unelected "superdelegates" who hold the key to the nomination for the right to face Republican John McCain in November. "I believe in the last month I've demonstrated a real strength ... the kind of strength that delegates have to look at.

After all, they have to exercise independent judgment as to who they think is the better candidate to win," she told NBC in an interview early Wednesday. Her solid win Tuesday night raised anew the prospect that the battle for the nomination could drag on to the Democratic convention in late August in Denver, Colorado, despite the hopes of party leaders to avoid a divisive floor fight.

Obama, 46, had downplayed any likelihood that he could win in Pennsylvania, but pointed out that he had whittled down her lead from 20 points. "We closed the gap," Obama said at a rally late Tuesday, citing a record number of new voter participating amid massive turnouts. "It is those new voters who will lead our party to victory in November," he said.

Obama warned the battle was not just about defeating the Republicans in the November polls, but what kind of party the Democrats wanted to be. "We can be a party that thinks the only way to look tough on national security is to talk, and act, and vote like George Bush and John McCain. We can use fear as a tactic, and the threat of terrorism to scare up votes," he said. "We can be a party that says and does whatever it takes to win the next election.

We can calculate and poll-test our positions and tell everyone exactly what they want to hear," the Illinois senator continued. "Or we can be the party that doesn't just focus on how to win but why we should." Clinton had earlier played up Obama's significant fundraising edge, which has allowed him to triple her advertising power in the northeastern state.

"Maybe the question ought to be, 'Why can't he close the deal with his extraordinary financial advantage? Why can't he win a state like this one if that is the way it turns out?'" she said.

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