Clinton Squeaks Out Indiana Victory; Obama Solidly Wins North Carolina

Razor-thin victory may force tough examination of campaign for Clinton.

ByABC News
May 6, 2008, 9:32 AM

May 7, 2008 — -- In what may be a turning point for the presidential aspirations of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., the former first lady vying to be the nation's first woman president lost the North Carolina primary as expected to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and squeaked out a razor-thin victory in Indiana, failing to decisively capture the Hoosier State.

Clinton won Indiana by just over 22,000 votes, a primary performance that will arguably move Obama closer to becoming the presumptive nominee.

The New York senator, who had hoped for double victories Tuesday, trails Obama in the delegate count, the popular vote, and in the number of states won.

Clinton is scheduled to meet with superdelegates Wednesday where she may face increased calls from within the party to step out of the race.

Obama overwhelmingly won the North Carolina primary 56 percent to Clinton's 42 percent, thanks in part to his support among new voters and African Americans.

In his victory speech he suggested the Democratic battle was nearing an end.

"This has been one of the longest, most closely fought contests in history," Obama said at a victory rally in Raleigh, N.C. Tuesday night. "And that's partly because we have such a formidable opponent in Senator Hillary Clinton."

In an apparent answer to Clinton's criticism that he is ill-prepared to withstand Republican attacks, Obama said: "The question, then, is not what kind of campaign they'll run, it's what kind of campaign we will run... I didn't get into race thinking that I could avoid this kind of politics, but I am running for president because this is the time to end it."

In recent weeks Clinton has argued Obama's failure to reach white, blue-collar workers could be a detriment in the general election fight against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.

However, Clinton failed Tuesday to decisively win the Hoosier State -- despite it's wealth of the rural, blue-collar, low education voters that have typically supported her.

With former President Bill Clinton standing behind her unsmiling, Clinton offerd a more subdued tone than in past victory speeches.

"I will never give up on you, and your families, and your dreams, and your future," she said, pledging to work hard to win upcoming primaries in Kentucky, Oregon, and West Virginia, after urging supporters to go to her website and donate much-needed money to her campaign.

Clinton suggested that even if she were not the nominee, the Democrat on the ticket would be best for the White House.

"I want the people in these upcoming states to know we're going to work hard to reach out to all of you. Because we want you to know the Democratic party is your party and a Democratic president would be best for you," Clinton said.

Support from 91 percent of African-Americans voters in N.C. -- who accounted for a third of voters in the state -- lifted Obama to easy victory, according to preliminary exit poll results.

The Illinois senator also benefited from a surge of new voters who favored Obama by a heavy margin.

Battling to the end, the exhausted rivals urged North Carolina and Indiana voters to the polls Tuesday, each hoping to shake up a Democratic race that has gone on longer than anyone expected.

Highlighting her working-class message, Clinton visited the Indy 500 racetrack in Indianapolis with Sarah Fisher, a female race car driver who has endorsed her.

Asked earlier Tuesday if she would drop out of the race if she lost tonight, Clinton refused to say.

"Politics is unpredictable. So I'm just going to wait and see what the voters have to say," she said.

After five months of bruising primary battles, Clinton had appeared to find a groove in recent weeks, adopting a populist message, defiantly refusing to withdraw from the race, and pushing the party to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan.

She aggressively targeted blue collar and low-income voters, hammering her message that she will fight for them.

"You notice as she campaigns that she drops the ending of words, and becomes 'we're working people,'" said Peri Arnold, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. "She becomes sort of Rosie-on-the-night-shift and stylistically she becomes very attractive to these voters."

Obama has typically fared better among younger voters, people with higher-education, self-described liberals, and African Americans.