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Analysis: Clinton and Obama enter protracted campaign

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NEDRA PICKLER
February 6, 2008
— So much for the quick victory the early primaries were expected to bring.

With a split decision on Super Tuesday, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have entered into a protracted campaign that may not end for weeks. This isn’t how it was supposed to play out in the compressed primary calendar.


The result is that far more voters across the country will have their say in deciding the Democratic nominee – the first woman or the first black – instead of just the early state residents who usually pick the winner.


Clinton was long positioned as the presumptive nominee, then Obama won Iowa and appeared to be on his way to toppling her. Since then, they have taken turns resurrecting themselves with surprising victories that have set up the most competitive Democratic presidential primary since 1984.


“We’re both preparing for a long, drawn-out affair here,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Tuesday.


Neither Clinton nor Obama proclaimed overall victory on a Super Tuesday that sprawled across 22 states with Democratic contests. Obama won 13 states and Clinton eight, but her victories included some of the biggest prizes – California, New York and New Jersey. New Mexico was still undecided when vote counting shut down for the night.


Both triumphed in all regions of the country – Obama had the edge in the Midwest and the Plains states, Clinton in the Northeast. After Obama’s decisive win in South Carolina last month, the two split the South.


By securing California, Clinton took the biggest prize of all – a state with 370 delegates at stake. Ethnic support proved decisive for her in the state – she won support from seven in 10 Hispanics and three-quarters of Asian voters.


Clinton also turned back what appeared to be an Obama boomlet from South Carolina, a strong fundraising month and several major endorsements, including members of the Kennedy family.


“Tonight in record numbers you voted not just to make history but to remake America,” Clinton said.


Both campaigns agree that Obama has the edge in many of the states scheduled to vote in the next week – Louisiana and Nebraska on Saturday, and Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia on Tuesday. Demographics in several of those states favor the man trying to become the first black president.


“There is one thing on this February night that we don’t need the final results to know – our time has come,” Obama said after polls closed in California. “Our time has come. Our movement is real, and change is coming to America.”


Obama has a significant fundraising advantage, having brought in more than twice her donations in January – $32 million to $13.5 million. Clinton is trying to counter by challenging Obama to four debates this month in which she can try to draw distinctions. Plouffe wasn’t taking the bait, calling it “a tactic out of second-tier congressional campaign playbooks.”


“There’s going to be more debates, but our schedule is not going to be dictated by the Clinton campaign,” he said.


Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn on Tuesday declined to discuss how strenuously Clinton would compete in the February contests, rather pointing reporters to an Ohio poll that showed her leading Obama by 20 percentage points there.


The Clinton campaign is also touting her strength in Texas which. like Ohio, holds its primary on March 4. Clinton strategists are even looking as far ahead as Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary.


Pennsylvania appeared to be making itself irrelevant by refusing to join the crush of states moving up their voting dates. Democratic Party rules said all but four states could not hold their contests until Feb. 5 or later – and 22 rushed up to that first allowable day.


The result was that many of those Feb. 5 states did not get much attention from the candidates who had to divide their attentions. Heavy attention now will shift to the states that showed patience.


Clinton and Obama were about even among white men, with both getting just under half their support, according to national exit poll results from Tuesday’s voting. That represented an improvement for Obama over his performance with that group in most primaries so far.


Clinton got about six in 10 women, giving her a near 25 percentage point edge with them.


An overwhelming eight in 10 blacks supported Obama. Clinton countered by getting the backing of almost two in three Hispanics, who comprised 16 percent of Democratic voters Tuesday.


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Nedra Pickler covers the Democratic presidential campaign for The Associated Press.



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