Obama Wins Mississippi's Democratic Primary

Barack Obama i i

Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting in Columbus, Miss., on Monday. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Barack Obama

Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting in Columbus, Miss., on Monday.

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Mississippi voters i i

Joseph Rupert, 8, of Meridian, Miss., passes the time while his mother, Jackie Rupert, votes in Mississippi's primaries Tuesday. Marianne Todd/Getty Images hide caption

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Mississippi voters

Joseph Rupert, 8, of Meridian, Miss., passes the time while his mother, Jackie Rupert, votes in Mississippi's primaries Tuesday.

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Hillary Clinton i i

Democratic New York Sen. Hillary Clinton greets supporters on the platform before a campaign rally at the Hattiesburg train depot in Mississippi on Friday. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Hillary Clinton

Democratic New York Sen. Hillary Clinton greets supporters on the platform before a campaign rally at the Hattiesburg train depot in Mississippi on Friday.

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Charles Holloway, left, is helped by a friend at a voting machine during the primary in Mississippi. i i

Charles Holloway (left) is helped by a friend at a voting machine during the Democratic primary in Meridian, Miss., on Tuesday. Marianne Todd/Getty Images hide caption

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Charles Holloway, left, is helped by a friend at a voting machine during the primary in Mississippi.

Charles Holloway (left) is helped by a friend at a voting machine during the Democratic primary in Meridian, Miss., on Tuesday.

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Illinois Sen. Barack Obama easily won Mississippi's Democratic primary on Tuesday, in a contest that split along racial lines as stark as any in the nominating contests to date.

Exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and TV networks showed that Obama captured 90 percent of the African-American vote in the Democratic primary, while New York Sen. Hillary Clinton won the support of more than 70 percent of whites.

Mississippi's population is nearly 40 percent African-American, and black voters are concentrated in the Democratic Party, so their support was enough to give Obama the advantage. Half of the Democratic primary voters were black, exit polls showed.

Following Obama's victory, Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams congratulated him. "Now we look forward to campaigning in Pennsylvania and around the country," she said in a statement.

Obama briefly appeared on CNN after the results were announced and took a swipe at the Clinton campaign and at statements made by Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton supporter and fundraiser and a former vice presidential candidate. Ferraro told a California newspaper last week that "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."

"We've been very measured in terms of how we talk about Senator Clinton," Obama told CNN. "I'm not sure we've been getting that same approach from the Clinton campaign."

Obama called on the Clinton campaign to renounce the Ferraro statement. Clinton said she did not agree with Ferraro and left it at that.

The Republicans also held a primary on Tuesday, with 36 delegates at stake. Arizona Sen. John McCain handily won the day's vote, despite slight attention paid to the state. As the presumptive GOP nominee, he has been focused on swing states in the general election. He spent Tuesday in Missouri, where he discussed economic issues, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The challenge for Obama in Mississippi was to win enough delegates to help reduce or even eliminate the delegate gain Clinton made on March 4, when she won three primaries in Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas and made a net gain of 15 delegates.

But by winning the caucuses in Texas — which has both caucuses and a primary — along with the Wyoming caucuses and the Mississippi primary, Obama had a chance to restore his prior lead in pledged delegates. In Mississippi, there were 33 Democratic delegates at stake.

Mississippi is the last Democratic contest until April 22, when 158 pledged delegates will be in play for the Democrats in Pennsylvania's closed primary. After that, votes will remain in North Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Oregon, Montana and South Dakota.

But these contests are not expected to give either candidate a net gain sufficient to lock up the race. Instead, the Democratic contest will be determined by the preferences of superdelegates, the roughly 800 automatic delegates who can support either candidate, regardless of the popular vote. About a third of these are members of Congress, who thus far have split evenly between the candidates. Most of the rest are members of the Democratic National Committee, who thus far have favored Clinton.

On the day of the primary, Obama campaigned at a diner in Greenville, Miss., where he spoke about the economic woes of the state's Delta region.

"We just haven't seen as much opportunity come to this area as we would like," he told supporters, adding that one of the challenges facing the new president will be "serving all communities and not just some communities." Mississippi has the lowest median household income of any state at $34,343.

Clinton also campaigned in Mississippi, making stops in Hattiesburg and Clarksville last week, while her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made appearances over the weekend at town hall meetings and fish fries along the Gulf Coast, areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Bill Clinton played up what he saw as his wife's ability to encompass the two dominant themes of this political season: change and experience. "This idea that there is a conflict between experience and change is just bull," he said.

In Jackson, voters such as Jackson State University professor Isaiah Madison said they were excited about the hopeful tone of Obama's campaign.

"This man is a leader, and he doesn't have to do everything. He doesn't have to micromanage. He is able to generate in people a profound commitment to the common cause," Madison said.

But at a rally featuring Bill Clinton on Saturday, voter Rebecca Pitts said she did not know enough about Obama to support him. "I never heard of this man 'til now, and this lady here is the truth of it. She has run the country once before, and she can probably do it again," she said.

Even as Mississippi voters went to the polls, the Democratic candidates had refocused their attentions on the Pennsylvania contest, as well as the possibility of a shared ticket.

Clinton, who spent her childhood summers at a lake house north of Scranton, told Pennsylvania supporters that a shared ticket could help Democratic voters who feel torn between the two candidates.

"A lot of Democrats like us both and have been very hopeful that they wouldn't have to make a choice, but obviously Democrats have to make a choice and I'm looking forward to getting the nomination," Clinton said. "And it's preliminary to talk about whoever might be on whose ticket."

Obama also campaigned in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. But he did not leave Mississippi without telling voters that he is not interested in being vice president.

"I don't know how somebody who is in second place is offering the vice presidency to the person who is first place," he told a crowd in Columbus, Miss. "I don't want anybody here thinking that somehow, 'Well, you know, maybe I can get both.' Don't think that way. You have to make a choice in this election."

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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