Tue, Jun 03, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Obama: 47 delegates short of victory

AP , SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won a lopsided but largely symbolic victory in Puerto Rico’s presidential primary, the final act in a tumultuous weekend that brought Senator Barack Obama tantalizingly close to claiming the Democratic presidential nomination.

The former first lady won roughly two-thirds of the votes in the US territory on Sunday as she continued a strong run through the last primaries that came too late to make a dent in Obama’s overwhelming delegate lead.

In defeat, Obama gained 17 delegates, leaving him 47 short of the 2,118 needed to become the first black presidential nominee of a major US political party.

Aides predicted the Illinois senator could clinch the nomination as early as this week. Montana and South Dakota close out the primary season today.

Campaigning in Mitchell, South Dakota, Obama said he was confident the party would unite, and praised Clinton in terms usually reserved for a vanquished rival. He told supporters that she would be “a great asset when we go into November” — the general election battle against Republican John McCain.

Obama has a total of 2,071 delegates in an Associated Press count, including the 17 from Puerto Rico. He also gained the support of two superdelegates — top party officials and lawmakers free to vote for any candidate — during the day.

Clinton has 1915.5, including 38 from Puerto Rico.

There are 31 delegates combined at stake in Montana and South Dakota. Obama’s high command sounded confident that enough superdelegates were poised to quickly declare their support and deliver him the nomination.

Obama’s confidence reflected the outcome of Saturday’s meeting of the Democratic Party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee. Before an audience that jeered and cheered by turns, the panel voted to seat disputed delegations from Michigan and Florida, but give each of the 368 delegates only one-half vote rather than the full vote sought by the Clinton campaign.

The two states were stripped of their delegates for holding their nominating contests early. Clinton won both races, but none of the candidates campaigned in either state and Obama’s name was not on the Michigan ballot.

The committee’s decision had little effect on Obama’s delegate lead, but was a major blow for Clinton, erasing her last, best opportunity to change the course of the race. Clinton’s camp argued that Obama should not be given any delegates from Michigan, but instead the committee gave her a slim majority.

In addition, there have been numerous statements by party leaders in recent days indicating they favor a quick end to the nominee race so the party can begin unifying for the general election race against McCain, who effectively wrapped up the nomination months ago.

Stung by the party committee’s decision, Clinton’s campaign said it reserved the right to challenge the ruling — particularly over the awarding of Michigan’s delegates. That threatened to extend the battle into the August nominating convention in Denver.

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