Obama – Clinton : Hillary proves her divisive political prowess

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Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Friday stepped up its defiance of the near-consensus view that Barack Obama has won the Democratic nomination, claiming she would come out ahead on the popular vote by the end of the race next Tuesday.

By Edward Luce in Washington

The Clinton campaign, which plans to amass hundreds of supporters on Saturday to demonstrate for her cause in Washington DC, has come under increasing pressure to bow to what most Democratic leaders say is the inevitable given Mr Obama’s lead with elected delegates.

Mrs Clinton’s campaign will argue that the Democratic National Committee should restore the delegates from Florida and Michigan – states she won in nullified primary elections earlier this year – and there are few signs she is preparing for a gracious exit.

Terry McAuliffe, campaign chairman, on Friday asked supporters for more donations so she could continue her fight for the nomination. “We’re ramping up our efforts for the final three primaries, which are critical to extending Hillary’s lead in the national popular vote and winning the nomination,” he said.

Most Democrats believe this epic race is finally moving to the endgame. Even if, as Democratic lawyers disclosed this week, Michigan and Florida get back half of their delegates at the committee meeting, Mrs Clinton would come nowhere near overtaking Mr Obama’s lead.

Mrs Clinton is expected to win Sunday’s primary in Puerto Rico, followed by expected victories for Mr Obama in South Dakota and Montana on Tuesday. After that, most of the 200 or so uncommitted “super-delegates” – unelected officials who will determine the winner – are expected to declare their preference.

Over the past three weeks, Mr Obama has gained the endorsements of almost 70 super-delegates compared to Mrs Clinton’s 10. To gain the nomination the winner must win 2,131 delegates, assuming the DNC does restore half of Michigan and Florida’s allocation.

Mr Obama would be about 70 short of that threshold, while Mrs Clinton would be about 240 short. Most of the remaining uncommitted super-delegates are thought to be in the Obama camp.

“We are going to urge folks to make decisions pretty quickly,” said Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader. “By this time next week it will all be over give or take a day.”

Mr Obama, who is already in full general election mode against John McCain, the Republican nominee, said: “Whatever remaining super-delegates will make their decisions pretty quickly after Tuesday. I am sure we will then have discussions with Senator Clinton and her team [about her withdrawal].”

Some Democrats believe that Mrs Clinton’s combativeness is a ploy to pressure Mr Obama to take her on as his running mate. Given his emphasis on “change”, the Obama camp is not warm to the idea. Others fear Mrs Clinton could still harbour hopes of taking her case to the Democratic convention in August – a scenario that could badly damage the nominee’s chances of victory in the general election.

The past three times the Democrats went through a floor battle at the nominating convention – in 1968, 1980 and 1984 – they lost the general election. “It is clear that Obama will be the nominee,” said James Thurber, head of the centre for presidential studies at American University. “What matters most is the manner in which the two candidates agree to end the race. It has to be amicable and involve a show of unity.”

Some Clinton supporters remain bitter over what they believe has been strong media bias against their candidate.

Others – such as Geraldine Ferraro, the former vice-presidential candidate who sparked outrage two months ago when she said Mr Obama was only ahead because he was black – continue to stoke up the party’s demographic divisions.

On Friday Mrs Ferraro wrote in the Boston Globe that blue-collar white voters would be unlikely to switch their support from Mrs Clinton to Mr Obama if he became the nominee. “If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being a racist,” Mrs Ferraro wrote. “They [working-class whites] don’t identify with someone who has gone to Columbia and Harvard Law School and is married to a Princeton- Harvard graduate.”

The Financial Times

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