Obama wins N. Carolina, Clinton takes Indiana

Updated: 2008-05-07 07:45

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama scored an easy win in North Carolina on Tuesday to take a big step toward the Democratic presidential nomination, while Hillary Clinton struggled to a narrow victory in Indiana that kept her faint White House hopes alive.

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., greets supporters in Raleigh, N.C.,Tuesday, May 6, 2008.  [Agencies]

With a double-digit win over Clinton in North Carolina's nominating contest, Obama rebounded from a rough campaign stretch fueled by his comments on "bitter" small-town residents and a controversy over racially charged comments by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Clinton led Obama by about 21,000 votes out of more than 1.2 million votes cast with nearly all the ballots counted in Indiana early on Wednesday. Television networks projected she would win.

The two Democrats are embroiled in a grueling battle for the right to represent the party in November's presidential election against Republican John McCain.

"We have seen that it's possible to overcome the politics of division and distraction, that it's possible to overcome the same old negative attacks," Obama told cheering supporters in Raleigh, North Carolina.

His speech took the tone of a candidate already fighting the general election.

Obama, a 46-year-old Illinois senator who would be the first black U.S. president, started his remarks by congratulating Clinton on "what appears to be a victory in the great state of Indiana."

US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is presented with a helmet by race car driver Sarah Fisher as they stand next to her car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana May 6, 2008. [Agencies]

But hours after he spoke on Tuesday evening, the gap in Indiana narrowed dramatically to give him a chance of a win.

An upbeat Clinton, speaking before her win was assured, told supporters in Indianapolis: "It's full speed on to the White House."

Clinton, a 60-year-old New York senator and former first lady who would be the country's first woman president, also asked for donations to keep alive her campaign, which has been heavily outspent by Obama.

In North Carolina, Obama beat Clinton by 14 percentage points, moving him closer to the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination at the party's August convention.

The result was a heavy blow to Clinton's efforts to overtake Obama in either delegates or popular votes won during the state-by-state nominating contests that began in January.

Indiana and North Carolina, with a combined 187 delegates to the Democrats' convention at stake, were the biggest prizes left in the race. Only six contests remain with a combined 217 delegates at stake.

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