Democrats in Pennsylvania made their choice yesterday in the presidential nominating race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, with Clinton aiming for a big win to keep her flickering White House hopes alive.
The New York senator was favored in Pennsylvania but needs a convincing victory to gain ground on Obama in the Democratic race and convince party leaders she is the best candidate to face Republican John McCain in November's presidential election.
Voting in Pennsylvania, the first state to cast ballots in six weeks, closes at 2400 GMT and the first results will be available soon afterward.
Clinton's one-time 20-point lead in the state has slipped to single digits in many polls amid an onslaught of advertisements by Obama, who has heavily outspent her in Pennsylvania. Both camps tried to play down expectations ahead of the vote.
"I'm not predicting a win. I'm predicting it's going to be close and that we are going to do a lot better than people expect," Obama told a Pittsburgh radio station on Monday.
The two candidates spent the final day of an increasingly sharp fight scouring the state for last-minute support. The Pennsylvania vote opens the final phase of Clinton and Obama's hard-fought duel for the nomination. Nine more contests are scheduled before the campaign concludes on June 3.
Obama has a nearly insurmountable lead in popular votes won during the first three months of the primary battle and in delegates who will choose the nominee at the August convention. But neither can clinch the nomination without the help of superdelegates - nearly 800 party insiders who are free to support either candidate.
Clinton hopes a big win in Pennsylvania ignites a strong run through the last nine contests, convincing superdelegates she is the candidate who can capture the big states that will be crucial in November.
A narrow Clinton win would probably keep her in the race, but not stem another round of calls among Democrats for her to step aside and let Obama focus on the race with McCain.
In contrast, an Obama win would almost certainly increase pressure on Clinton to drop out of the race.
The Pennsylvania contest is the latest in a series of do-or-die votes for Clinton, who rallied from the brink of elimination with a win in New Hampshire on Jan. 8 and popular vote victories in Ohio and Texas on March 4.
Source: China Daily/Agencies