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Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2008-10-24

Barack Obama beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in North Carolina's presidential primary, according to US media projections, with polls in Indiana closed in the last major fight for the 2008 Democratic nomination.

Overcoming the political fallout from his former pastor’s controversial comments, Barack Obama won the North Carolina primary, according to US media projections, beating Democratic rival Hillary Clinton with a comfortable lead.


But the nail-biting suspense of the last of the big Democratic primaries continues as US networks said they were unable to predict an early winner in the midwestern state of Indiana.


With his North Carolina victory, Obama extended his slim lead over Clinton, helping his bid to expand his lead in the race for delegates to the party's summer convention, which will choose a presidential candidate.


With 134 delegates up for grabs, North Carolina was the big prize of the night, one that Obama managed to secure despite a punishing few weeks that saw the Illinois senator on the defensive as he tried to distance himself from his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s controversial “God damn America” remarks.


Reporting from Clinton’s headquarters in Indianapolis, FRANCE 24’s Guillaume Meyer said  North Carolina was a critical victory for Obama. “It’s a big prize for Barack Obama,” he said. “It was no surprise of course, he was already ahead in the polls. But it is a big win and it’s one he needed after spending the last two weeks trying to defend himself and distance himself from his former pastor.”

Righting the Wright affair

Going into Tuesday’s primaries, Obama was on the defensive following the controversial “God damn America” remarks by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.


With polls showing the damage wrecked by the Wright fallout, the Illinois senator spent the weekend distancing himself from the cleric who married the Obamas and baptized their daughters.


During a weekend interview on the US NBC News television network, Obama was asked if he would seek Wright’s advice if elected. The Illinois senator replied with a categorical, “Absolutely not.”


The Wright fracas was reopened when the clergyman broke his silence in late April only to repeat his controversial claims that Sept. 11 attacks were a retribution for US foreign policy and the US government helped spread AIDS to harm blacks.


The reopening of the Wright issue, according to McDonald, turned out to be not such a bad thing after all.


“It gave Obama the chance to denounce Rev. Wright,” he explained. “It gave him the opportunity to have his ‘Sister Souljah moment,’” he said referring to Bill Clinton’s public repudiation of an inappropriate comment by the hip-hop star during the 1992 campaign. 


Indeed by Sunday, a CBS/New York Times poll showed Obama starting to recover from the incident, with voters nationwide giving him an 11-point lead over presumptive Republican candidate, John McCain.

A gas tax holiday ‘dead on arrival’

For her part, Clinton has also had to bear the fallout of her infamous April 22 Iran remark, when the New York senator said she would “totally obliterate” Iran if Tehran launched a nuclear attack on Israel.


Days later, Iran strongly protested the remark in a letter to the UN Security Council, calling it “provocative, unwarranted and irresponsible.”


In interviews over the weekend, Clinton defended her statement. But she steered clear from using the term “obliterate”.


Clinton was also forced to defend her pledge for a gas tax cut during the summer to give Americans a break from rising fuel prices, a move Obama dismissed as “gimmickry.”


Like most experts, McDonald dismissed Clinton’s gas tax holiday as unfeasible. “Her package is dead on arrival in (Washington) DC,” he said. “This is purely political grandstanding. You could call it pandering. But unfortunately sometimes that’s what elections are about.”

Date created : 2008-05-07