Dems continue nomination fight

Despite a lopsided 41-point victory in the West Virginia primary Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the Democratic nomination appear to be slipping away.

Sen. Barack Obama's commanding victory in the North Carolina primary May 6 gave him 66 of the state's 115 pledged delegates. The win, coupled with a narrow loss in the Indiana primary, moved him closer to the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination in August.

Additionally, former North Carolina senator John Edwards, previously a candidate for the Democratic nomination and the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, announced his endorsement of Obama Wednesday, a move that may add 19 superdelegate commitments for Obama from superdelegates who formerly supported Edwards.

David Rohde, Ernestine Friedl professor of political science, said he does not believe a viable path remains for Clinton to secure the nomination.

"Whether she withdraws now or later it doesn't really matter," he said. "One [incentive] for her to continue is to raise money to help repay her debt; another is to look for smaller victories so that she can claim that she accomplished something."

Rohde added that if Clinton continues to attack Obama it could damage the Democratic Party's prospects in the general election. He said, however, he believed that the eventual nominee would have the full support of the other candidate.

Buncombe County Commissioner Carol Peterson, one of the five Tar Heel state superdelegates who has not endorsed either candidate, said Clinton and Obama had each personally reassured her that they would support the eventual nominee.

"I take very seriously the notion that we need to look at who is the most electable in November," she said. "There is a path for both of them right now, and I would be hard-pressed to say which one I think will get the nomination."

Peterson said she would likely not make a commitment until the Democratic National Convention in August. She added that she ultimately hopes to see Obama and Clinton as running mates on the same presidential ticket.

"I've talked with both of them and I've met with Hillary, and they are more alike than they realize," she said. "If they could just sit down in a nice cozy room without the press all around them I bet there wouldn't be a five-percent difference in how they feel."

Duke Democrats President Ben Bergmann, a sophomore, said he believes Obama will be the nominee, but he added that he would be excited to see Clinton as the vice presidential running mate. Bergmann said he expects the Democrats to compete in North Carolina in the general election.

"With Barack Obama you are going to see North Carolina in play [for Democrats] for the first time in a long time, with high African-American turnout, high turnout in the Triangle and high youth turnout," he said.

Bergmann added that he was not concerned about Obama's ability to win the votes of the white working class because of his performance in other state primaries.

"He lost West Virginia [Tuesday] by a substantial margin, but he won states like Alaska and Kansas, and Iowa was the first victory of his campaign," he said.

The contest has shown significant divisions along racial lines, with Obama victories coming largely on the strength of black voters. In the North Carolina primary, Obama won more than 90 percent of the black vote. Clinton, however, continues to be successful in states like West Virginia, which has a much smaller black population.

"[Clinton] has shown a great amount of resilience in a number of states," said College Republicans Chair Vikram Srinivasan, a junior. "At the beginning of the cycle there was the sense that Hillary Clinton would be the better candidate to run against because she has such high negative ratings. At this point though, many of Obama's weaknesses have been revealed and Republicans would be happier to run against either candidate."

Other primary results

The May 6 primary also yielded a challenger for incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole, Woman's College '58, in the race for U.S. Senate. State Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro easily defeated her main opponent, investment banker Jim Neal of Chapel Hill, in the Democratic primary.

Rohde said although Dole's poll numbers have shown only mediocre support, he expected it would be difficult for a Democrat to defeat her.

"It is unlikely but not impossible," he said. "We know from 2006 that the status of congressional elections changes over time and right now it is a long way to the general election."

In the gubernatorial race, Republicans will face a similar uphill battle against decades of Democratic dominance in state politics. Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory received the Republican nomination despite being the last candidate to enter the race. He will face Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, the Democratic nominee, in the general election. Perdue edged State Treasurer Richard Moore, garnering 56 percent of the vote.

Srinivasan said he thought Republicans have an opportunity to win the race by emphasizing recent corruption scandals-such as the imprisonment of former House speaker Jim Black for felony corruption and the conviction of former State Rep. Thomas Wright for fraud and obstruction of justice-that have plagued Democrats in state government.

"We have seen a lot of the negative consequences of the entrenchment of Democrats in state government," he said. "There is real potential for running a campaign on reform."

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