Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Barack Obama cruised past a fading Hillary Rodham Clinton with two more wins in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, leaving the former first lady in desperate need of a comeback after 10 straight losses in a race she once commanded.
With his wins in Wisconsin and Hawaii, Obama has extended his lead in the all-important delegate count and has continued momentum going into major primaries on 4 March 2008 in Texas and Ohio.
Clinton’s supporters concede she must win one, and possibly both, to remain competitive. She has had advantages in both states, but with each victory, Obama has continued to win over voters who had been loyal to Clinton. In Wisconsin, he split the support of white women almost evenly with her and also ran well among working class voters.
Obama, seeking to become the first black US president, has won a wave of support on his message of hope and change. He has brushed off criticism from Clinton and the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, that, as a first-term senator, he lacks the experience to lead the United States.
“The change we seek is still months and miles away,” Obama told a boisterous crowd in Houston in a speech in which he also pledged to end the war in Iraq in his first year in office.
McCain appeared to be preparing for a race against Obama as he moved closer to sealing the Republican nomination with victories in Wisconsin and Washington state.
In scarcely veiled criticism of Obama, McCain said, “I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure that Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change.”
Clinton, seeking to become the first female US president, made no mention of her defeat, and showed no sign of surrender in an appearance in Youngstown, Ohio.
“Both Senator Obama and I would make history,” the New York senator said. “But only one of us is ready on day one to be commander in chief, ready to manage our economy, and ready to defeat the Republicans. Only one of us has spent 35 years being a doer, a fighter and a champion for those who need a voice.”
In a clear sign of their relative standing in the race, most cable television networks abruptly cut away from coverage of Clinton’s rally when Obama began to speak in Texas.
With the votes counted in all but one of Wisconsin’s 3,570 precincts, Obama won 58% of the vote to 41% for Clinton.
With all vote counted in Hawaii, Obama had 76% to Clinton’s 24%.
Wisconsin offered 74 national convention delegates. There were 20 delegates at stake in Hawaii, where Obama spent much of his youth.
Obama’s Wisconsin victory left him with 1,303 delegates in The Associated Press’ count, compared with 1,233 for Clinton. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination at the party’s national convention in August.
In the March 4 contests in Ohio and Texas, 370 convention delegates will be at stake. Two smaller states, Vermont and Rhode Island, also have primaries that day.
Obama’s victory came after a week in which Clinton and her aides tried to knock him off stride. They criticized him in television commercials and accused him of plagiarism for using words first uttered by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a friend. He shrugged off the advertising volley, and said that while he should have given Patrick credit, the controversy didn’t amount to much.
The voters seemed not to care.