WASHINGTON — Barack Obama appears to be just days away from becoming the first black presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party, despite a landslide primary win by Hillary Rodham Clinton that did little to revive her failing campaign.
Clinton’s win last Sunday in Puerto Rico will not keep Obama from winning the nomination, but his string of defeats at the end of the primary campaign in states like West Virginia and Kentucky have highlighted his weaknesses among white working-class and Hispanic voters that could undermine his hopes of defeating Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
As of Sunday, Obama stood 45 delegates short of the 2,118 needed to win the nomination. Aides predicted the first-term Illinois senator could clinch the nomination as early as this week, as Montana and South Dakota were set to close out a bitter and hard-fought primary season on Tuesday.
The former first lady entered this week with an insurgent strategy not only to win over undecided superdelegates, but also to peel away Obama’s support from those party leaders and elected officials who already have committed to back him for the nomination.
“One thing about superdelegates is that they can change their minds,” she told reporters aboard her campaign plane on Sunday night.
Obama displays no signs of worry, pivoting toward the November general election against McCain. Some of Clinton’s own backers are saying the time is near for her to fall in behind him.
Clinton won a lopsided but largely symbolic victory in Puerto Rico — a Caribbean U.S. territory that votes in the primaries but does not participate in the presidential general election. She won 38 delegates and Obama gained 17.
With 31 delegates at stake Tuesday, Obama looked to close the gap further and cue undecided superdelegates to come to his side. He picked up two more superdelegates on Monday.
Obama entered as the favorite in both South Dakota and Montana. He had 2,073 delegates to Clinton’s 1,915.5.
Obama, campaigning in Mitchell, S.D., confidently predicted that Clinton “is going to be a great asset when we go into November.”
“Whatever differences Senator Clinton and I may have, those differences pale in comparison to the other side,” he said.
Obama has made up most of the ground he lost last Saturday when the national party’s rules committee agreed to reinstate delegates from Michigan and Florida. The party had initially refused to seat the delegates as punishment for scheduling their contests in violation of party rules.(p2)
Back in January, the Banner's editorial page said of the Illinois senator: "Of all the candidates vying to become the next president, only Barack Obama has demonstrated the vision necessary to enliven the nation." More »
Even before Montana and South Dakota, Obama had begun sketching the outlines of a contest against John McCain, saying the fall election will be more about specific plans and priorities than questions of political ideology or patriotism. More »
In his most pointed speech of the campaign, Obama confronted the nation’s legacy of racial division head on, tackling black grievance, white resentment and the uproar over his former pastor’s incendiary statements. More »