Clinton Puerto Rico win fails to halt Obama momentum

 

Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nominating contest in Puerto Rico today but still badly trails front-runner Barack Obama as he draws closer to clinching the party's presidential nomination.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Mrs Clinton's win in Puerto Rico, a territory that has 55 delegates to the August nominating convention but is not allowed to vote in the November election, gave her more fuel for her argument that she is the best Democrat to face Republican John McCain.

But the results pushed Mr Obama closer to the magic number of 2,118 delegates needed to become the nominee.

The the Illinois senator already has turned his attention to a general election fight with McCain.

Two contests on Tuesday in Montana and South Dakota, with 31 pledged delegates at stake, conclude the voting in the Democratic presidential race.

Before the Puerto Rico vote, Mr Obama was about 70 delegates shy of clinching the nomination. He probably will still be short on Tuesday, but could reach the total quickly with the help of some of the approximately 180 uncommitted superdelegates - party officials who can back any candidate.

Mr Obama cleared a significant hurdle on Saturday when a party committee dealt Mrs Clinton a blow by seating the disputed Michigan and Florida convention delegations at half-strength.

The decision by the rules committee was a victory for Mr Obama, preventing Mrs Clinton from significantly cutting his delegate lead. Mrs Clinton had won both disputed contests and demanded the delegations be seated at full voting strength.

"Now that Michigan and Florida have been added, we are getting close to the number that will give us the nomination," Mr Obama said in South Dakota after the rules committee meeting.

"And if we've hit that number on Tuesday night we will announce that, and I think even if we don't, this is the end of the primary season," the Illinois senator said.

Once the long primary season ends on Tuesday after five months of state-by-state nominating contests, the Obama camp expects the superdelegates to quickly line up behind him.

The Clinton campaign said it planned to continue the fight, possibly all the way to the national convention in Denver, and try to woo superdelegates on the claim the New York senator won more primary votes and was beating Mr McCain in states Democrats need to win.

"This race goes on until someone meets the magic number to be the nominee of the Democratic Party," Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe said on ABC's This Week.

But there is growing impetus among Democrats to get the campaign going against Mr McCain.

"This needs to end in the month of June," Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean said on This Week. "We don't want to go to the convention, have a big fight at the convention and lose the presidency."

Reuters