Clinton gaining on Obama as key primaries loom

Hillary Clinton appeared on Wednesday to be gaining on Barack Obama in two key primary states, after her Democratic foe tried to quell another damaging uproar sparked by his fiery former pastor.

The White House rivals fought another day of fierce turf battles in mid-western Indiana and North Carolina on the East Coast, which hold Democratic primaries on Tuesday in a crucial phase of the end-game in their gripping race.

Though Obama leads in nominating contests, elected delegates and the all-important fundraising stakes, Clinton’s message seems to be hitting home after her campaign-saving victory in Pennsylvania last week.

But she needs to capitalise on Obama’s recent struggles as she tries to convince ”superdelegates” — the professional Democratic politicians who effectively hold the nomination in their hands — that Obama is unelectable.

A Howey-Gauge poll in Indiana released on Tuesday had Obama up by just 47 to 45 percentage points, well within the margin of error, with 8% of likely primary voters undecided.

Clinton had trailed by 15 points in the same poll in February.

Clinton got a boost on Tuesday with the endorsement of North Carolina Governor Mike Easley, who declared that she made Rocky Balboa, the fictional boxer played by Sylvester Stallone, look like a ”pansy”.

Both Clinton and Obama were campaigning in Indiana on Wednesday, as their campaign teams blitzed North Carolina with ads and cranked up the political ground game.

United States media commentators on Wednesday began to assess how deeply Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s latest fiery comments had damaged the Obama campaign, after the Illinois senator sharply rejected his friend of 20 years on Tuesday.

”I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw,” Obama said.

”I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years,” he said of the man who conducted his marriage and baptised his two daughters, as he spoke to reporters in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

”The person I saw yesterday [Monday] was not the person that I met 20 years ago,” Obama said.

”His comments were not only divisive and destructive but I believe they end up giving comfort to those that prey on hate. I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.

”They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs. If Reverend Wright thinks that is political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn’t know me very well.”

Wright had previously said that Aids was a racist plot created by the US government and said after the September 11 attacks in 2001 that black citizens should not sing God Bless America but God Damn America to protest their historic treatment by white people.

Neither Clinton nor Obama can now reach the 2 025 pledged delegates doled out in primary and caucus contests to claim the Democratic nomination outright.

So the fate of the party’s presidential pick to take on Republican Senator John McCain lies in the hands of the nearly 800 superdelegates who can vote how they like at the party’s convention in Denver, Colorado, in August. — AFP



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Stephen Collinson
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