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Obama Pulls Ahead as Narrow Win in Indiana Keeps Clinton Going

Sen. Barack Obama won North Carolina's presidential primary by a wide margin Tuesday, while Sen. Hillary Clinton narrowly won in Indiana.
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By Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 7, 2008; 10:37 AM

Sen. Barack Obama scored a landslide victory in North Carolina's Democratic presidential primary yesterday, moving him ever closer to locking up an insurmountable lead among pledged delegates, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton posted a razor-thin win in the hotly contested Indiana primary as she sought to keep her shaky candidacy for the nomination alive.

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Clinton secured the Indiana result after a late rush of votes for Obama from the city of Gary and surrounding Lake County dramatically narrowed her margin in a bizarre end to a long night of counting. Inexplicably, Lake County did not report any votes until nearly 11:30 p.m. and the county was still reporting precinct results after 1 a.m. today.

The twin results solidified the status quo in the Democratic race, one that now gives Obama the clear advantage in the battle for the nomination because of his solid lead in the tally of pledged delegates. Despite her Indiana victory, Clinton emerged even more the underdog in the nomination battle.

The results meant the senator from Illinois would add both to his pledged-delegate margin and his lead in the popular vote, leaving Clinton with an even more daunting challenge in trying to deny Obama the nomination.

Clinton nevertheless added a campaign appearance in West Virginia to her schedule today, and supporters took to the airwaves to emphasize that she remains in the race and to urge unpledged "superdelegates" to stick with her.

The New York senator also planned to continue campaigning tomorrow in West Virginia before flying to South Dakota and Oregon. West Virginia holds its Democratic primary May 13.

Although she managed to squeeze out a victory in Indiana, the night produced a far different outcome than the Clinton campaign had hoped for. In the closing hours of the campaigns in the two states, her advisers expressed confidence that she was gaining ground on Obama in North Carolina rapidly enough to hold his anticipated victory margin to single digits. They also thought she was positioned for a solid victory in Indiana.

Instead, Obama won North Carolina by 56 percent to 42 percent, and his popular-vote margin there -- about 230,000 votes -- wiped out the gains Clinton had made with her decisive victory in Pennsylvania two weeks ago. In Indiana, Clinton won by 51 percent to 49 percent.

Obama, declaring that he is now fewer than 200 delegates away from locking up the nomination, used his victory speech in Raleigh to begin to try to heal the divisions in the party that have resulted from the long and difficult campaign and to sound the themes of a general-election race against Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

"This fall, we intend to march forward as one Democratic Party, united by a common vision for this country," he said. "Because we all agree that at this defining moment in history -- a moment when we're facing two wars, an economy in turmoil, a planet in peril, a dream that feels like it's slipping away for too many Americans -- we can't afford to give John McCain the chance to serve out George Bush's third term. We need change in America."

Clinton appeared more than a hour after Obama spoke, before any final call on Indiana had been made, to declare that she would continue fighting. "Tonight we've come from behind," she said. "We've broken the tie, and thanks to you it's full speed -- on to the White House."

But there were other signals that she and her advisers recognize the long odds she faces. Her speech was tinged with a sense of urgency, as she pleaded with her supporters to go immediately to her Web site and make a contribution to allow her to continue to campaign against a rival who enjoys a sizable financial advantage. She followed that with an e-mail appeal to supporters asking for funds.


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