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Published: Wednesday, 3/12/2008

Obama easily wins Mississippi primary

FROM THE BLADE S NEWS SERVICES

JACKSON, Miss. Barack Obama coasted to victory in Mississippi s Democratic primary yesterday, the latest in a string of racially polarized presidential contests across the South and a final tune-up before next month s high-stakes race with Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania.

Mississippi s vote proved predictable.

At least half of the Democratic electorate is black, and Mr. Obama led Mrs. Clinton 90 percent to 10 percent among them, according to exit polls.

White voters tilted to Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama, 73 percent to 26 percent, according to exit polls.

That could bolster the New York senator s claim that Mr. Obama has limited appeal, an ability to win only in states with large black populations, or in those that hold caucuses, where organization is crucial.

John McCain won Mississippi s Republican primary easily, but exit polls found only 42 percent of Mississippi voters were very satisfied with him.

Mr. McCain continues to draw skepticism from conservatives.

About 41 percent of Mississippi s GOP voters were somewhat satisfied with him, while 15 percent were somewhat or very dissatisfied.

Next on the Democratic primary calendar is Pennsylvania s April 22 contest, where 158 convention delegates are at stake.

Mr. Obama s triumph in Mississippi seemed unlikely to shorten a Democratic marathon expected to last at least six more weeks and possibly far longer while Republicans turn their attention to the fall campaign.

Now we look forward to campaigning in Pennsylvania and around the country, Maggie Williams, Mrs. Clinton s campaign manager, said in a written statement that congratulated Mr. Obama on his victory.

I m confident that once we get a nominee, the party is going to be unified, Mr. Obama said.

But in a contest growing more acrimonious, he took a swipe at the way his rival s campaign has conducted itself.

We ve been very measured in terms of how we talk about Senator Clinton, he said. I ve been careful to say that I think Senator Clinton is a capable person and that should she win the nomination, obviously, I would support her. I m not sure we ve been getting that same approach from the Clinton campaign, he said on CNN.

Mississippi offered only 33 delegates and its result didn t change the shape of the race.

The primary and caucus season is scheduled to end June 7, and it s unlikely either Democrat will clinch the 2,025 delegates needed for nomination.

That would toss the nomination decision to the 795 party officials who, as super delegates, control about 20 percent of the Democratic National Convention s vote.

The Illinois senator has 1,596 delegates to 1,484 for Mrs. Clinton.

There was little suspense about the Mississippi outcome, and both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama spent part of their day campaigning in Pennsylvania.

The volatile issue of race has been a constant presence in the historic Democratic campaign, and it resurfaced during the day in the form of comments by Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate and a Clinton supporter.

If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman [of any color] he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept, she said in an interview with the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif., that was published last Friday.

Mrs. Clinton expressed disagreement with Ms. Ferraro s comments.

It s regrettable that any of our supporters on both sides, because we both have this experience say things that kind of veer off into the personal, Mrs. Clinton said.

Mr. Obama called Ms. Ferraro s remarks patently absurd.

Adding to the uncertainty in the battle between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, Democrats from Florida and Michigan are pressing for their delegations to be seated at the convention.

Both states were stripped of their delegates by the Democratic National Committee after they held early primaries in defiance of party rules.

Efforts are under way to find a compromise that would satisfy party leaders in both states as well as the candidates, although Mr. Obama was unreceptive during the day to proposals for primaries-by-mail.

I think there are some concerns in terms of making sure that whatever we do is fair and votes are properly counted and the logistics make sense, Mr. Obama told CNN.

Other than Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota have primaries remaining.



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