Can't find what you're looking for? Try Google Search.

Obama, Clinton face new tests in White House duel

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton faced crucial tests in their grueling White House fight on Tuesday, as voters in Indiana and North Carolina began casting ballots in the latest Democratic showdowns.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) (L) greets Andrea Raes after she voted along with her daughters Lilia (in pink), 3, and Sophia, 2, outside the polling location at Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis May 6, 2008. (REUTERS/Brent Smith)

The two states, with a combined 187 delegates to the August nominating convention at stake, are the biggest prizes remaining in the tight race to see who will be the party's candidate in the November presidential election. After Tuesday, only six of the state-by-state contests will be left.

"The stakes are high and the consequences are huge," Clinton told supporters at a New Albany, Indiana, fire station on Monday night.

Polls in both states opened by 7 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) and were scheduled to close in Indiana at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) and in North Carolina at 7:30 p.m. EDT (2330 GMT), with results expected soon afterward.

Clinton has cut Obama's advantage in North Carolina to single digits in most polls over the past few weeks. The two run closer in Indiana, where Clinton has a slight edge.

"Obviously we hope to do as well as we can, but, you know, we started out pretty far behind," she said late on Monday. "I never feel confident; I just try to do the best I can."

Obama, an Illinois senator, has an almost unassailable lead in pledged delegates who will help select the Democratic nominee to face Republican John McCain in November.

If Obama wins in both Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday, it would end Clinton's slender hopes of overtaking him in either delegates or popular votes won in the battle for the nomination and spark a fresh flood of calls for the New York senator and former first lady to step aside.

Clinton victories in both states could fuel doubts about Obama's electability and persuade some superdelegates -- party insiders free to back any candidate at the nominating convention -- to move toward her.

Neither can win enough delegates to clinch the race before voting ends on June 3, leaving the decision to the nearly 800 superdelegates.

A split decision would leave the race largely unchanged heading to the last six contests, in which 217 delegates are at stake. "Today is likely to be 'Groundhog Day': six more weeks of this campaign," said George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.


Obama has struggled through a rough campaign stretch after last month's loss to Clinton in Pennsylvania, dogged by a furor over his comments on "bitter" small-town residents and a controversy over his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, has won the votes of nine out of 10 black voters in other states, and is expected to benefit from a strong turnout in North Carolina, where African-Americans could make up more than one-third of voters in the Democratic primary.

The two Democrats, courting the working- and middle-classes suffering from an ailing economy and high gas prices, spent much of the past few days focusing on Clinton's proposal to lift the federal gasoline tax for the summer.

Obama and many economists called the plan a political gimmick that would save little money for most families, but Clinton launched an advertisement in both states questioning her rival's stance.

"What has happened to Barack Obama?" an announcer asks. "He is attacking Hillary's plan to give you a break on gas prices because he doesn't have one."

Clinton says a suspension of the tax during June, July and August, when many Americans take vacations, would help people deal with record gas prices in a faltering economy. Congressional leaders say there is little chance Congress will take up any gas tax proposal this year.

"Do I think we can get it done, past a veto by President (George W.) Bush as the ultimate blocker?" Clinton said. "It's obviously a very difficult challenge. But that doesn't mean you don't try."

Obama released his own advertisement that said Clinton offered "more of the same old negative politics." He told supporters the gas tax holiday was a dishonest approach to a real problem.

"The majority of people do find me trustworthy, more than they do the other candidate," he said. "We can't solve problems if people don't think their leaders are telling them the truth."

No comments: