Obama momentum builds in White House race

Barack Obama moved closer to sewing up the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday with more superdelegates rallying to his side, as rival Hillary Clinton fought on despite mounting odds against her.

Since Obama’s convincing win in North Carolina on Tuesday over rival Clinton and their photo-finish in Indiana, 12 more of the Democratic Party elite who have a say in the nomination contest have swung over to the Illinois senator, including seven in 24 hours.

The trickle of support is predicted to turn into a flood, with only six primaries now left in their marathon battle to carry the party’s flag into the November presidential elections against Republican John McCain.

Former candidate John Edwards, who dropped out of the close race in late January, stopped short of endorsing Obama on Friday, but said he has virtually wrapped up the contest ahead of the last primaries on June 3.

“Let’s just assume that Barack is the nominee because it’s headed in that direction,” he told NBC television.

He added he thought Obama, who is on a historic quest to be the country’s first black president, also had a “better chance” to beat McCain.

While the former first lady had fought a good campaign, “the problem is the numbers”, Edwards said, referring to the 2 025 delegates needed to secure the party’s nomination.

Clinton, who is also seeking to make history by being the first woman elected commander-in-chief, trails Obama in the number of pledged delegates to the party’s nominating convention in August.

And while she still holds the lead in superdelegates, whose votes will be decisive in who wins the party nomination, Obama is hot on her heels.

Independent pollsters RealClearPolitics.com on Friday put Obama ahead with 1 854 delegates, including 265 superdelegates, compared with 1 696 for Clinton, who has pocketed 272 superdelegates.

That leaves more than 250 superdelegates still uncommitted, at least publicly.

Seven superdelegates announced their support for Obama, including one who defected from Clinton’s side, New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne.

“After careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that Barack Obama can best bring about the change that our country so desperately wants and needs,” Payne told the Newark Star-Ledger.

Two other members of Congress, Oregon’s Peter DeFazio and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, threw their support behind Obama.

He also won the support of superdelegates Ed Espinoza, a Democratic national committee member from California, Wilber Lee Jeffcoat, the Democratic Party vice-chair in South Carolina, and Laurie Weahkee, lead organiser for the Native American Voters’ Alliance.

In addition, Obama picked up the support of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents about 600 000 government workers, and its president, John Gage, a superdelegate.

Clinton has vowed no surrender and plunged straight back into campaigning before the May 13 primary in West Virginia, where she is favoured in polls. On Thursday and Friday she was in Oregon, which will hold its primary along with Kentucky on May 20.

“People say to me all the time, ‘Are you going to keep going?’ Well, yes, of course I’m going to keep going,” she told supporters in Oregon late on Thursday.

“We were flying against the wind, but you know that’s the story of my life. Fly against the wind, you’ll get there eventually.”

She also faced increasing pressure to bow out after making controversial remarks to USA Today newspaper on Thursday about white voters not supporting Obama.

Clinton referenced polls that she said “found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states [Indiana and North Carolina] who had not completed college were supporting me”.

The New York Times, which initially endorsed Clinton, said in an editorial on Friday that “Clinton will be making a terrible mistake—for herself, her party and for the nation—if she continues to press her candidacy through negative campaigning with disturbing racial undertones”.

Obama has said he could declare victory after the May 20 primaries, which may put him over the top, in terms of elected delegates.—AFP


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