Obama, Clinton each get a win, but his delegate lead widens
His decisive victory in North Carolina shows he can rebound from setbacks, analysts say.
It's not over, but it appears the end may be in sight.Skip to next paragraph
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Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won the North Carolina Democratic primary by a commanding 14 percentage points over New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, proving to critics he can win white Southern votes as well as black. With that win, he has amassed an almost insurmountable lead in both pledged delegates and the popular vote.
But Senator Clinton took Indiana by a slim two-point margin and vowed to fight on. In recent months she's recast herself as the feisty champion of the working class. Her margin of victory among Hoosiers, though small, has inspired her to carry on through the last contests in June.
Even so, the outcome of Tuesday's primaries failed to change the dynamics of the race, pundits note, something Clinton had to do to wrest the mantle of presumed nominee from Senator Obama.
"It's more or less decided, even if she does go on to win West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico," says Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "These two were the races the [super] delegates were waiting for, and Barack Obama came back to a strong victory in North Carolina after the polls showed it was getting close."
In his victory speech in Raleigh, N.C., Obama thanked voters for giving him a decisive win in a "big state" and a "swing state," directly addressing the Clinton campaign's assertion that she is better suited to win the big swing states in November. He won 56 percent of the vote to Clinton's 42 percent.
"There are those who were saying that North Carolina would be a game-changer in this election," he told a cheering crowd. "But today what North Carolina decided is that the only game that needs changing is the one in Washington, D.C."
Early last week, the Obama campaign became embroiled in the controversy over racially charged comments by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. It threatened to derail his White House run by alienating white working-class voters in North Carolina, in particular, analysts said. By week's end, Obama's once-commanding 25-point lead in the polls had shriveled to single digits. Some analysts say his comeback win by double digits in the Tar Heel State, which included 36 percent of the white vote, signaled to superdelegates – the party's officers and elected officials – and that he could weather controversy and rebound.