Monday, May 19, 2008

Obama looks to seal deal over Hillary

Heading into the Democrats' latest round of primary voting, Barack Obama is bidding to seal the deal against Hillary Clinton and unite the party for its larger battle to come against John McCain. Senator Obama campaigned in the north-western state of Oregon today while the former first lady was set for a rally in Kentucky ahead of the two states' nominating contests on Wednesday, when the Illinois senator could clinch a majority of elected delegates. Senator Obama was not planning to spend the election night in either state, heading instead to Iowa - the scene of his triumph in the very first Democratic faceoff in early January -- before a trip later in the week to Florida.

According to one report, fundraisers for Senators Obama and Clinton are tentatively joining forces to adopt a general-election footing against Senator McCain, the presumed Republican nominee. The Washington Post quoted Mark Aronchick, a Philadelphia lawyer and top fundraiser for Senator Clinton, as saying her supporters recognised the need to start preparing for November's presidential vote. "Only if we do this right, and see this through in the right way, will there be a chance for a full, rapid and largely complete unification of the party," Mr Aronchick said, while insisting he was not giving up on Senator Clinton's bid.

Senator Obama's campaign said he needs just 17 more pledged delegates - won through state contests - to reach a majority of 1627, not counting "superdelegates," party leaders who can vote for the nominee of their choice. Including superdelegates, the winning line to clinch the Democratic nomination is 2025. According to, Senator Obama has 1897 delegates in total to Senator Clinton's 1717. Polls show Senator Obama leading in Oregon, where 52 delegates are up for grabs, while Senator Clinton is ahead in Kentucky, a state with 51 delegates that has a similar demographic to West Virginia, where she won by a landslide last week.

At a fundraiser in Portland last night, Senator Obama predicted victory in Oregon and said he believed the delegates from the win would "put us over the top". "We will be able to say we have won a majority," he said. "But we have a lot of work to do ahead of us."

Roy Romer, a former governor of Colorado and ex-chairman of the Democratic National Committee who is now backing Senator Obama, said the Illinois senator's delegate lead "can't be overcome". "And the primaries that are left are going to divide about equally. So this race is over, and Obama is going to be the candidate," he said overnight on CBS television.

Senator Clinton, however, is vowing to battle on until the end of the primary season. After Wednesday, there will be just three Democratic contests left - Puerto Rico on June 1, and Montana and South Dakota on June 3. "There is no standard under which Senator Obama will have secured the nomination on Tuesday night (local time)," Senator Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson, said.

The Obama and McCain campaigns meanwhile pursued a war of words after President George W. Bush, in a speech last week to the Israeli parliament, implied the Democrats wanted to appease terrorists. A furious Senator Obama took the remark as an attack on his stated intention to talk to US foes such as Iran and Syria. "That kind of leadership, I think, is what people are looking for," Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd said on Fox News Sunday, pointing to US engagement during the Cold War with the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong's China.

But Republican Jon Kyl, Senator McCain's fellow senator from Arizona, said no US presidents had parlayed face to face with "state sponsors of terrorism", citing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Senator McCain took time out from the heated exchanges to poke fun at himself on the US comedy show, Saturday Night Live. "I ask you, what should we be looking for in our next president? Certainly, someone who is very, very, very old," he joked. At 72 next January, the Republican would be the oldest president sworn in to a first term.


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