USA - VOTE 2008

Obama wins Hawaii, strengthens lead

Democrat Barack Obama swept the Wisconsin Democratic primary and the Hawaii caucuses, making him the clear frontrunner with ten wins in a row. France 24's Guillaume Meyer reports from Washington.


Barack Obama pummeled Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin and Hawaii Tuesday, making it 10 wins in a row against his bitter rival in the Democratic White House race.

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain meanwhile fired a pre-emptive strike on his increasingly likely Democratic general election foe, ripping Obama's "eloquent but empty" rhetoric, after his own easy win in Wisconsin.

Obama's victories cemented his front-runner status, and left Clinton needing an astonishing turnaround in must-win contests in her firewall states of Ohio and Texas on March 4 to keep her fading presidential hopes alive.

"I think we've achieved liftoff here," said Obama, as he addressed a delirious rally in Houston, Texas, which hosts NASA's mission control for US space missions, as he set a rhetorical course the November 4 presidential vote.

"The change we seek is still months and miles away," he said.

Though Obama and Clinton had been tightly matched going into the Wisconsin primary, which had 74 delegates on offer, he swept to a comprehensive win.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Obama led 58 percent to 41 percent.

Later Tuesday, Obama, who is vying to make history as America's first black president, secured another comprehensive victory as his birth state of Hawaii held its caucuses, US media reported.

Clinton, stung by another grievous blow to her hopes of becoming America's history-making first woman president, pleaded with voters to pause to consider who was truly qualified to lead the country.

"Both Senator Obama and I would make history. But only one of us is ready on day one to be commander in chief, ready to manage our economy, and ready to defeat the Republicans.

"That is the choice in this election."

Arizona Senator McCain, 71, edged even closer to mathematical certainty of grasping the Republican nomination, handily beating his pesky Republican rival Mike Huckabee in Wisconsin.

McCain also swept Washington state's primary, after winning the first part of its two-step nominating process, a caucus, ten days earlier.

The Vietnam war hero struck an immediate contrast with Obama, 46, trying to leverage the campaign onto national security territory where McCain draws strong support.

"Thank you Wisconsin, for bringing us to the point where even a superstitious navy aviator can claim with confidence and humility that I will be our party's nominee for president of the United States," McCain said in a victory rally in Columbus, Ohio.

Turning to Obama, he rapped an "eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history and a return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy."

"Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan?" he said, referring to Obama's threat to strike at Al-Qaeda without Islamabad's permission if necessary.

McCain also hit out at Obama for suggesting talks without preconditions with US foes like Iran and North Korea.

But in his own victory speech Obama was unrepentant, saying America should not be afraid to talk to its enemies.

The two head-to-head showdowns set the stage for the crucial contests in Ohio and Texas on March 4, which one-time front-runner Clinton is billing as a firewall.

Obama's win in Wisconsin provided further evidence that key voting groups are lining up behind the Illinois senator's campaign.

Wisconsin, with its legions of blue collar white voters, should have been Clinton territory, but exit polls showed Obama repeating his feat in the Virginia and Maryland primaries last week of cutting into her power base.

He shared Clinton's core constituency of women, and union households. The former first lady won only one age group, voters aged 60 and older.

Households who earn less than 50,000 dollars also narrowly went for Obama, and he also won the category of households earning more than that figure.

Obama now leads Clinton by 1342 to 1265 delegates, according to independent political website

Neither candidate is likely to reach the winning line of 2,025 delegates, which has led to speculation of a convention brawl when the Democrats select their White House nominee in August.

McCain has amassed a total of 877 delegates, of the 1,191 needed for the Republican nomination. His former rival Mitt Romney endorsed McCain on February 15 and urged his 271 delegates to do the same.

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