Will Clinton finally drop out?
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As voters in Oregon and Kentucky head to the polls on Tuesday, American media are rife with speculation that Clinton will drop out of the race - the only question being when. The last primaries will be held on June 3.
MAYSVILLE, Ky., May 19 (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton had a
warning on Monday for rival Barack Obama, who is on the verge
of claiming the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination: Not so
"This is nowhere near over," Clinton said at a rally in
Maysville, Kentucky, pressing ahead with her long shot bid for
the White House even as Obama focuses on November's general
election match-up with Republican John McCain.
Despite Obama's almost unassailable lead in delegates who
will select the nominee at the August Democratic convention,
Clinton repeatedly has shrugged off calls to quit the race
before the last of the voting concludes on June 3.
She warned the Illinois senator against premature victory
celebrations one day before Kentucky and Oregon cast ballots in
the lengthy Democratic White House fight.
"None of us is going to have the number of delegates we're
going to need to get to the nomination, although I understand
my opponent and his supporters are going to claim that,"
Clinton, a New York senator, said in Maysville.
Obama expects to claim a majority of pledged delegates won
in state-by-state races after Tuesday's returns, but he will
still be about 75 short of the 2,026 needed to clinch the
nomination without further help from superdelegates -- party
officials who are free to back any candidate.
Obama contends the remaining undecided superdelegates, who
have been trending his way heavily in recent weeks, should back
him since he won the most delegates in state voting.
Clinton says superdelegates should consider her argument
that she will make a stronger general election foe for McCain,
and her victories in big states like Pennsylvania and Ohio give
her a better base than Obama has managed.
Obama will mark Tuesday's voting with a rally in Iowa, a
general election battleground where he made his breakthrough
with a big win in the first Democratic contest on Jan. 3. He
told reporters in Oregon on Sunday, however, that he did not
plan to declare victory on Tuesday.
NO VICTORY DECLARATION
"It doesn't mean we declare victory because I won't be the
nominee until we have enough -- combination of pledged
delegates and super delegates to hit the mark," Obama said.
Obama continued to focus on the general election fight with
McCain, stepping up attacks on the influence of lobbyists in
the Arizona senator's campaign.
"John McCain's campaign is being run by Washington
lobbyists and paid for with their money," Obama said in
Billings, Montana, a state with a June 3 primary.
McCain's national finance co-chairman, former Texas Rep.
Thomas Loeffler, quit on Sunday because of his lobbying ties,
becoming the fifth person to leave his campaign because of
links to lobbying. McCain's campaign manager last week asked
staff to either resign or cut their ties with lobbying groups.
McCain strategist Charles Black, criticized by Democrats
for his own lobbying activities, told reporters he had retired
from his lobbying firm and he believed the McCain campaign had
resolved the issue.
"I think everyone's complying right now," Black said.
In the Democratic race, Clinton said she had no intention
of giving up the fight before the last two states, South Dakota
and Montana, cast their votes.
"I'm going to make my case and I'm going to make it until
we have a nominee, but we're not going to have one today and
we're not going to have one tomorrow and we're not going to
have one the next day," said Clinton, a former first lady.
"If Kentucky turns out tomorrow I will be closer to that
nomination because of you," she said.
Obama is favored to win in Oregon, where his lead in new
polls ranges from 4 percentage points to double digits, and
Clinton is a big favorite in Kentucky. The two states have a
combined 103 delegates at stake on Tuesday.
All voting ends in Kentucky at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) and
Oregon at 8 p.m. PDT/11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT). Results are
expected shortly after.
A delegate count by MSNBC gave Obama 1,901 delegates to
Clinton's 1,724. He picked up five more superdelegates on
Monday, including Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
Obama has been cautious about pushing Clinton too hard to
leave the race. Both candidates have avoided criticizing each
other since Obama's win in North Carolina two weeks ago moved
him closer to claiming the nomination.
The Clinton campaign sent a memo to reporters saying any
Obama effort to declare himself the nominee on Tuesday would be
"a slap in the face" to Clinton supporters.
"Premature victory laps and false declarations of victory
are unwarranted. Declaring mission accomplished does not make
it so," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said.
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