HILLARY CLINTON won a lopsided, but largely symbolic, victory yesterday in Puerto Rico’s presidential primary, the final act in a weekend of tumult that brought Barack Obama close to the Democratic presidential nomination.
Ms Clinton was gaining more than 60% of the vote in early returns, and a pre-election poll suggested she could wind up with nearly two-thirds support.
In defeat, Mr Obama was on track to gain at least 14 delegates, bringing him within 50 of the 2,118 needed for the nomination.
His aides said he would clinch the prize within days.
“We hope this week, absolutely,” said spokesman Robert Gibbs. Montana and South Dakota hold primaries on Tuesday, the last of the primary campaign season.
Gibbs’ confidence reflected the outcome of Saturday’s meeting of the Democratic Party’s rules and bylaws committee. The panel voted to seat disputed delegations from Michigan and Florida, but give each delegate only one-half vote.
While the decision narrowed the gap between Ms Clinton and Mr Obama, it also erased Ms Clinton’s, best chance to change the course of the campaign.
A telephone poll of likely Puerto Rican voters taken in the days leading up to the primary suggested an electorate sympathetic to Ms Clinton — heavily Hispanic, as well as lower income and more than 50% female.
Nearly 75% of all those interviewed said they had a favourable view of Ms Clinton, compared with 53% for Mr Obama.
The survey was conducted from Tuesday to Saturday by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. It included 1,587 likely voters with a candidate preference.
Mr Obama campaigned in South Dakota during the day, while Ms Clinton was in Puerto Rico hoping for a victory celebration.
There are 31 delegates combined at stake in Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday, and Mr Obama’s high command sounded confident enough superdelegates were poised to deliver him the nomination.
In addition, there have been numerous statements by party leaders in recent days indicating they favour a quick end to the presidential race so the party can begin unifying for the fall race against John McCain, the Arizona senator who wrapped up the Republican nomination months ago.
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