Casper, Wyoming: Sen. Barack Obama captured the Wyoming Democratic caucuses, seizing a bit of momentum in the close, hard-fought race with rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the party’s presidential nomination.
Obama, who already has a lead in the overall race for delegates at the nominating convention, won seven delegates Saturday and Clinton won five.
He has generally outperformed Clinton in caucuses, which reward organization and voter passion more than do primaries. The Illinois senator has now won 13 caucuses to Clinton’s three.
Clinton, buoyed by big wins in Ohio and Texas last Tuesday, said she faced an uphill fight in Wyoming.
Her campaign also holds out little hope for Tuesday’s primary in Mississippi. The Southern state has a large black population, who have largely supported Obama in his bid to become the first black US president.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said the Wyoming victory shows the candidate’s strength in the West, and that Obama is better suited to help Democrats running for other offices even in states that traditionally vote Republican in the November general election.
“I think it’s evidence that Senator Obama is going to be able to put more states in play because of his strength with independent voters,” Plouffe said.
Obama has also shown strength in the Mountain West, winning Idaho, Utah, Colorado and now Wyoming. The two split Nevada, with Clinton winning the popular vote and Obama more delegates.
Clinton’s campaign took heart in their ability to pick up more delegates Saturday.
“We are thrilled with this near-split in delegates and are grateful to the people of Wyoming for their support,” said campaign manager Maggie Williams. “Although the Obama campaign predicted victory in Wyoming weeks ago, we worked hard to present Senator Clinton’s vision to the caucus-goers and we thank them for turning out today.”
Both candidates were looking ahead to the bigger prize, delegate-rich Pennsylvania on 22 April.
In the overall race for the nomination, Obama led 1,578-1,468, according to the latest tally by The Associated Press. It will take 2,025 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.
The rivals were neck-and-neck in a national poll that Newsweek magazine carried out just after Tuesday’s primaries. Obama had 45% to Clinton’s 44%, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. The magazine polled 1,215 Democratic voters 5 - 6 March.
Clinton, who is aiming to become the country’s first woman president, has hinted recently that if she wins the nomination she would consider sharing the ticket with Obama. But in an interview Friday in Wyoming with KTVQ-TV, a CBS affiliate based in Billings, Montana, Obama shied away from that possibility, calling it “premature.”
“We have won twice as many states as Senator Clinton, and have a higher popular vote, and I think we can maintain our delegate count,” he told the station.
On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain has already surpassed the number of delegates needed to clinch his party’s nomination.