Now Obama has the momentum

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton jockeyed for position on Sunday in a bruising United States presidential race after Obama scored a landslide win in a South Carolina primary tinged with the issue of race.

“I think [the result] speaks extraordinarily well, not just for folks in the South, but all across the country,” said Obama, who beat Clinton by a two-to-one margin in Saturday’s Democratic selection contest in South Carolina.

“People want change. I think they want to get beyond some of the racial politics that, you know, has been so dominant in the past,” Obama, who would be the first black US president, told ABC’s This Week.

Obama’s victory, after losses to Clinton in New Hampshire and Nevada, gave him momentum heading into February 5 “Super Tuesday” Democratic contests in 22 states for their party’s presidential nomination. Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, won the first contest in Iowa earlier this month.

Clinton, a New York senator and wife of former president Bill Clinton, would be the first woman president.

She and her husband drew criticism for comments seen by some as minimising the role of blacks in the 1960s civil rights movement and the importance of Obama’s success in South Carolina, a state with a large black population.

The Clintons have long enjoyed support in the black community, and she predicted Democrats would unite around whoever wins their party’s nomination for the November 4 general election against the yet-to-be chosen Republican nominee.

Republican President George Bush’s second term ends next January.

“This has been the most intense election process I know of,” Clinton told reporters.
“It is a marathon run like a sprint. There is no stopping. There is no resting.”

She left before the votes in South Carolina were even tallied to fly to Tennessee, a February 5 state.

Republicans focus on Florida

The Republican presidential contenders, who held their primary in South Carolina last week, are focused on Florida’s primary on Tuesday where a struggling former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is banking on a strong showing.

He rejected polls that show him running fourth in Florida behind Senator John McCain of Arizona, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

“We’re going to win Florida,” Giuliani told CBS’s Face the Nation.

McCain and Romney are in a tight race in the state after splitting the last three contests—McCain won South Carolina and Romney won Michigan and Nevada. A new Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll showed the two deadlocked at 30% each in Florida.

McCain picked up the endorsement of Florida Governor Charlie Crist during a campaign stop in Tampa where he was praised as being “tenacious,” “unyielding” and “persistent”.

He brushed off criticism that he was too much of a maverick to unite Republicans and win the presidency.

Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, McCain said, “I’m very proud, by the way, that polls show that I’m the most competitive by far against Senator Clinton and Senator Obama while the others [Republican candidates] lag far behind.”

Kennedy boost for Obama

Senator Edward Kennedy, a leading liberal voice in the US Congress, will endorse Obama’s presidential campaign on Monday at an event in Washington, Democratic sources said.

Kennedy, a veteran Democrat from Massachusetts, will be accompanied by his niece, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late president, who has already endorsed Obama. She wrote in Sunday’s New York Times that Obama seems to be able to inspire people as her father did a half century ago.

Clinton and Obama have both won scores of endorsements from fellow members of Congress.

The San Francisco Chronicle, the city’s largest newspaper, backed Obama, saying he stood above the “cycles of vengeance and retribution” that has marred Clinton’s campaign.

California is the most populous of the states holding Super Tuesday contests.

With heavy support from black voters, Obama won 55% of South Carolina’s Democratic vote, double Clinton’s 27%. Former senator John Edwards finished third with 18%, casting fresh doubt on the future of his campaign.

Exit polls showed Obama also won one-quarter of white votes and did very well among young voters.

“It [Super Tuesday] presents more of a challenge for us,” he said on a flight from Georgia to Alabama, both February 5 states.

“We always knew starting at the outset that we were going to be underdogs,” Obama said. But he added: “The more people know me, the better I do.” - Reuters

Tales from the Trail: 2008

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