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Potomac primaries: Obama on a streak with Clinton in turmoil

His victories Tuesday make eight in a row and show he's eroding Clinton's core constituencies.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / February 13, 2008

Barack Obama supporters wave placards at his primary election night rally in Madison, Wisconsin.

Allen Fredrickson/Reuters

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WASHINGTON

If Barack Obama goes on to win the Democratic nomination for president, historians may point to the Feb. 12 "Potomac primaries" as the tipping point that established him for the first time as the clear front-runner.

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Not only did the Illinois senator win the three primaries, making him undefeated in the last eight contests, he won them by massive margins. His 64-to-35 percent victory in Virginia was particularly stunning to the campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which thought she might come close or even possibly win in Old Dominion.

But Senator Obama defeated Senator Clinton in just about every demographic category there, demonstrating that he is expanding into her base support of low-income voters and women. Obama also appears to be winning over the supporters of former Sen. John Edwards (D) of North Carolina, who departed the race two weeks ago. In the early contests, he had done well among white men, union households, and the economically stressed, all groups where Obama is building support.

On Wednesday morning, Obama was to take his message on the economy – the No. 1 issue for voters – to the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville, Wis. According to his campaign, the senator planned to discuss his "agenda to restore economic balance and fairness" and "create millions of new jobs." The economy will be a dominant theme of his stump speeches in coming weeks, campaign aides say.

Obama was already in Wisconsin Tuesday night to deliver his victory speech before a crowd of 16,000 people at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Wisconsin's primary is next Tuesday, Feb. 19, along with caucuses in Hawaii. Obama is expected to win both, which puts tremendous pressure on Clinton in the next round, the March 4 primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island. The first two are especially critical, analysts say, along with the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Many analysts, including longtime Clinton friend and adviser James Carville, have opined that if she loses any of the big three – Ohio, Texas, or Pennsylvania – her campaign is effectively over.

Obama himself seemed to pivot to a general election stance on Tuesday night, taking aim at the Republicans' likely nominee and trying to lash him to the unpopular Republican president.

"John McCain is an American hero; we honor his service to our nation," Obama said. "But his priorities don't address the real problems of the American people, because they are bound to the failed policies of the past. George Bush won't be on the ballot this November, but his war and his tax cuts for the wealthy will."

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