Obama Closes In On Dem Nomination

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., acknowledges supporters during her Kentucky primary election night rally Tuesday, May 20, 2008 in Louisville, Ky. AP

Barack Obama stepped to the brink of victory in the Democratic presidential race Tuesday night, defeating Hillary Clinton in the Oregon primary and moving within 100 delegates of the total he needs to claim the prize at the party convention this summer.

"You have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination," he told cheering supporters in Iowa, the overwhelmingly white state that launched him, a black, first-term senator from Illinois, on his improbable path to victory last January. ()

Clinton countered with a lopsided win in Kentucky, a victory with scant political value in a race moving inexorably in Obama's direction.

Finance reports filed yesterday show Clinton in the red, saddled with nearly $20 million in debts. Obama, by contrast, entered May with $37 million in the bank, while John McCain entered the month with $22 million on hand. (Read more on the candidates' finances.)

With 83 percent of the votes counted in Oregon's unique mail-in primary, Obama led Clinton 58 percent to 42 percent. With all precincts reporting in Kentucky, Clinton bested Obama 65 percent to 30 percent.

Kentucky Results
Oregon Results

The former first lady vowed to remain in the race, telling supporters, "I'm more determined than ever to see that every vote is cast and every ballot is counted." ()

Obama won enough delegates Tuesday night to claim the majority of all pledged delegates to be elected in primaries and caucuses, reports CBS News. Obama has 1,649 pledged delegates to Clinton's 1,496. That total does not include Michigan or Florida.

According to the latest CBS News count, Obama now has a total of 1,955 delegates, which leaves him less than 100 away from the 2,026 needed to capture the nomination. The former first lady has 1,773. That tally includes the nearly 800 superdelegates, the party leaders who hold the balance of power at the convention. (See the full state-by-state tally)

In Kentucky, CBS News reports Clinton will win 35 delegates and Obama will win 14, with one left to be allocated. In Oregon, Obama will win 28, Clinton will win 19 and there are five unallocated.

"To the extent that the outcome of this race is uncertain, it's devolved into an argument over mathematical computations," said CBSNews.com senior political editor Vaughn Ververs. "But the numbers aren't adding up for Hillary Clinton, and barring a totally unexpected and dramatic reversal of fortune, she's not going to persuade those superdelegates that two plus two somehow equals five." (Read "Obama Pivots Toward Fall Challenges," by Ververs)

"This continues to be a tough fight, and I have fought it the only way I know how - with determination, by never giving up and never giving in," Clinton told supporters in Kentucky.

"I have done it not because I've wanted to demonstrate my toughness," she said, "but because I believe passionately that for the sake of our country, the Democrats must take back the White House and end Republican rule. ... That's why I'm still running and that's why you're still voting," she said.

Clinton claimed the popular vote lead in her speech to supporters, counting the disputed Michigan and Florida primaries. "This is one of the closest races for a party's nomination in modern history, she said.

Obama spoke before some 6,000 supporters at an outdoor rally with the Iowa Statehouse as a backdrop, celebrating in the state where his win in the opening contest of the presidential primary season helped reshape the race.

"Tonight, in the fullness of spring, with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States of America," Obama said.

According to CBS News exit polling, in Kentucky, 77 percent of Clinton voters said they would be dissatisfied if Obama was the Democratic nominee. Obama voters were about evenly split on whether they would be satisfied if Clinton got the nomination. (Exit Poll Data: Kentucky | Oregon)

In Kentucky, just 33 percent of Clinton voters said they would back Obama in the general election if he is the Democratic nominee - 42 percent said they will vote for Republican nominee-in-waiting McCain, and another 23 percent say they won't vote. More Democrats also felt Clinton was the best candidate to beat McCain in the fall.

Oregon voters felt differently when asked about their feelings about the candidate they did not vote for, according to the exit poll. A majority of Clinton and Obama voters in the state would be satisfied if their opponent got the nomination. And 68 percent of Clinton voters say they will back Obama in the general election if he is the nominee and 80 percent of Obama voters say they will back Clinton in the general election. However, a majority of Oregon Democrats said they thought Obama would be a stronger general election candidate in the fall.

Democratic voters in both states said the economy was the most important issue, with 67 percent of voters in Kentucky saying that. Voters differed, however, on whether to suspend the gas tax was a good idea. In Kentucky, 59 percent thought it would be good idea and 37 percent said it would not be. In Oregon, 64 percent said they thought it would be a bad idea and 26 percent said it would be a good idea.

Since the vote is by mail in Oregon, the exit poll was taken by telephone and completed on Sunday.

In Kentucky, Clinton won among almost all key demographic groups in the state, according to the exit polls. She won 67 percent of women and 64 percent of men. She won 79 percent of blue collar whites. By wide margins, she won those earning less or more than $50,000 and those with or without a college degree.

In Oregon, Obama won most demographic groups. He won male voters 65 percent to 34 percent and women voters 51 percent to 48 percent. Obama also carried those with or without a college degree and those who made more or less than $50,000. Clinton won blue collar whites in Oregon, but by a much smaller margin than she did in Kentucky - 54 percent to 46 percent.

Clinton won among Kentucky voters who decided in the last week and those who decided in the last three days. However, Obama won those voters in Oregon.
  • CBSNews

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