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Obama-Clinton interaction to impact U.S. general election
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14:07, June 02, 2008

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· U.S. Presidential Election 2008
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Sunday's Democratic presidential primary in U.S. territory of Puerto Rico was a clean sweep for Senator Hillary Clinton, who vowed to keep running against all odds.

However, the real news of the day is not Clinton's largely symbolic victory, but her rival Senator Barack Obama's preparations to announce he wins the party's nomination, which many believe will come within days.

It's a simple question of math. A candidate needs at least 2,118 national convention delegates to get the Democratic Party's presidential nomination this year.

After the Puerto Rico primary, in comparison to Clinton's 1,915 delegates under her column, Obama now has some 2,070 delegates and is only less than 50 delegates short to secure the nomination.

There are only two primaries left, which are to held on June 3, and there only 31 pledged delegates left for grabs.

Apparently it's impossible for Clinton to catch up with Obama in the delegate tally as the party is wrapping up the primary election cycle.

Obama aides expect more party "superdelegates" to jump into the Illinois senator's wagon in the next few days and give him enough votes to get the nomination.

Robert Gibbs, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said the senator could secure the nomination as early as Tuesday, after theMontana and South Dakota contests.

"If not Tuesday, I think it will be fairly soon," Gibbs said.

But the prolonged nomination contest has alienated the voters from both sides, which is seen as a dangerous sign for the party, which aspires to take back the White House after eight years of Republican rule.

As a result, how Obama and Clinton interact with each other in the post-primary period will have a great impact on the Democrats' chance in the November general election.

APPARENT DIVISION

The division inside the Democrat Party was apparent at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, in a Washington hotel Saturday.

After daylong debates, DNC's rules and bylaws committee finally reinstated all of Florida and Michigan's delegates to its party's presidential nomination convention in August, but delegate from the two states will only have half a vote at the convention because the two states held their primaries earlier than the DNC allowed.

The move leaves front-runner Obama's lead over Clinton intact and was seen as a blow to the latter.

The DNC had penalized both states for holding their primaries earlier, by excluding them from representation at the party's August convention, in which the party nominates a presidential candidate.

Clinton and Obama offered different plans to solve the issue. Clinton asked for fully restoring the two states' voting rights atthe convention, a position Obama camp aid it would never accept.

The DNC ruling last Saturday was viewed as favoring Obama and effectively ruined Clinton's last hope of catching up with Obama in delegate tally.

As a result, Clinton supporters protested throughout the meeting and threatened to carry the fight all the way to the August convention.

Some of her supporters even said they would defect from the party and vote for Republican candidate John McCain in November ifClinton couldn't get the nomination.

In the May 20 Kentucky primary, two-thirds of Clinton supporters said they would vote for Republican or not vote at all in the general election if Clinton was not the nominee.

The situation was even worse for Obama than in the West Virginia primary a week earlier, where 36 percent of the Clinton supporters said they would back Obama.

Moreover, support for Clinton is still strong among white men, blue-collar workers, women and Hispanics, and she is very influential in key "swing states" such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

If Obama wants to be better-positioned in the general election,it's obvious he needs full-hearted support from Clinton.

OBAMA EXTENDS OLIVE BRANCH

Bearing those high stakes in mind, Obama has been extending an olive branch to Clinton in recent weeks.

On Sunday, he was quick to congratulate Clinton's win in PuertoRico.

"I just got off the phone with Senator Clinton. She's going to win Puerto Rico and I wanted to congratulate her for that," Obama told supporters in Mitchell, South Dakota.

"Senator Clinton is an outstanding public servant," he said.

"She has worked tirelessly in this campaign. She has been a great senator for the state of New York, and she is going to be a great asset when we go into November to make sure that we defeat the Republicans," Obama added.

Earlier news reports said Obama had ordered his staff members to reach out to Clinton supporters and even privately offered her a cabinet post, a report Clinton denied later.

For the moment, Clinton showed no sign to voluntarily quit the race, though she was reportedly considering her future plans.

It's noteworthy that her campaign has recently stopped attacking Obama.

News reports said that it's obvious that Clinton would be forced to leave the race at some point, but she is leaving all the options open.

CLINTON'S OPTIONS

As her defeat looks an almost certainty, Clinton has several options for exit.

One is to quickly endorse Obama after he reaches the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination, and to get a joint ticket with Obama.

That will be the best scenario for the Democrats.

However, it's hard for Clinton to campaign for Obama or become his deputy, given her repeated arguments that Obama is not the Democrats' best choice to defeat John McCain in the general election.

Her attacks had gone so far as she even doubted about Obama's beliefs and attacked his character.

These old wounds are very hard to heal and if Clinton joins Obama's team, she will face a crisis of credibility.

Another option is to fight all the way to the national convention, no matter Obama gets enough delegates or not. That will be a nightmare for Democrats.

At present, the Clinton campaign is still protesting DNC's decision on halving Michigan's voting rights at the national convention and awarding the state's delegates to Obama even his name was not on the state's ballot.

Clinton aide Harold Ickes said the option is still open for her to take the issue to the convention.

However, that scenario is also less likely because that will make Clinton look like a spoiler to her own party.

A third option is to suspend her campaign and keep distance from Obama.

In that scenario, Clinton could act like a bystander in the general election and wait for her chance in the next presidential election in 2012.

With each option, there will probably be a different impact on the general election in November.


Source: Xinhua



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