USA - VOTE 2008

Clinton-Obama race goes to Indiana, N. Carolina

Turnout was high across Indiana and North Carolina as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama face a critical test for the 2008 Democratic nomination. (Report: G. Meyer)


Americans across the states of Indiana and North Carolina go to the polls Tuesday in what could be yet another make-or-break contest in the 2008 Democratic nomination race.


Or, depending on how the results go, it could well result in another stalemate that will see Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama scrapping until the bitter end.


If the rhetoric ahead of Tuesday’s primary results sounds familiar it’s only because the dead heat of this year’s Democratic race shows no sign of abating.


With 2,024 delegates needed for the nomination, Obama leads with a slim 1,747 to Clinton’s 1,608, according to the US web site Realclearpolitics. Up for grabs Tuesday, are Indiana’s 84 delegates and 134 delegates from North Carolina.


“In some ways, this Tuesday could change the dynamic of the Democratic nomination race,” says Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the Virginia-based George Mason University, before hastily adding, “In some ways, it could not.”


Put simply, a double victory for Obama could decisively turn the tide against Clinton as the all-important superdelegates – or party seniors – would almost certainly pitch in their critical votes for Obama.


A twin win for Clinton, on the other hand, would further muddle the picture, giving both candidates a shot at grabbing the nomination.


A third scenario – one that most polls are predicting – would be a split result, with Obama taking North Carolina and Clinton bagging Indiana. After Tuesday’s primaries, only six more states go to the primaries before the August Democratic convention.


If there has been one consistent pattern emerging from this year’s primary, it has been Clinton’s ability to bounce back from the brink, earning her the “comeback kid” sobriquet she now shares with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

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.”

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