Barack Obama declared himself within striking distance of the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday after trouncing Hillary Clinton in North Carolina, while she eked out a wafer-thin win in Indiana.
|Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton speaks at her election night event watched by former president Bill Clinton. (AFP Photo)|
Well after midnight, hours after the North Carolina result, the former first lady held on to take Indiana by a victory margin of 51 percent to 49 percent.
In North Carolina, Obama romped home by 56 percent to 42, and used his victory speech here to cast himself as the Democrats' heir apparent for the November election against Republican John McCain.
Obama was a clear winner Tuesday, besting Clinton by more than 200,000 votes between the two primaries and picking up a net gain of 13 delegates to the party's August convention where 2,025 are needed for the nomination.
He also boosted his case among the nearly 800 "superdelegates," party grandees who are free to vote for either candidate and hold the key to the tightest nomination race in a generation.
With Obama holding a 1,842-1,692 edge in elected delegates, Clinton is running out of road. Only six primaries, with a total of 217 delegates at stake, remain between now and June 3.
Exit polls from Tuesday's votes said Obama, buffeted by weeks of controversy over racially tinged remarks by his former pastor, had won over more than one-third of white voters in North Carolina.
He also scored well with voters in terms of his identifying with their values, suggesting he had deflected Clinton's accusation that he is an "elitist" out of touch with blue-collar voters.
As analysts questioned Clinton's viability in the Democratic race, aides to the New York senator denied a Drudge Report story that she was convening a crisis meeting on Wednesday with select superdelegates.