Senator Barack Obama scored a big win over Senator Hillary Clinton in the North Carolina Democratic primary and narrowly lost in Indiana as he moved closer to becoming the first black presidential nominee of a major US political party.
Obama expanded his advantage in delegates who will choose the party’s nominee and Clinton is running out of opportunities to narrow the gap.
“Tonight we stand less than 200 delegates away from securing the Democratic nomination for president of the United States,” Obama told a raucous rally in Raleigh, North Carolina.
But Clinton signaled her determination to fight on. She told cheering supporters in Indianapolis: “Thanks to you, it’s full speed to the White House.”
Returns from 99 percent of North Carolina precincts showed Obama winning 56 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Clinton, a triumph that mirrored his earlier wins in southern states with large black populations.
In Indiana, returns from 99 percent of the precincts showed Clinton with 51 percent to 49 percent for her rival, a margin of little more than 22,000 votes out of more than 1.2 million cast.
The outcome was not clear for more than six hours after the polls closed, the uncertainty stemming from slow counting in Lake County near Obama’s home city of Chicago.
Obama won at least 94 delegates and Clinton at least 75 in the two states combined, with 18 still to be awarded.
The contests were the last big-delegate prizes in their marathon race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The long and often divisive race has led Democrats to fear that they may be undermining their prospects for capturing the White House after two terms of US President George W. Bush — despite Bush’s low popularity.
Obama’s delegate haul edged him closer to the nomination. Obama led with 1,840.5 delegates, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates. Clinton had 1,684 delegates.