Barack Obama Nears Finish Line With Oregon-Primary Win, But Hillary Clinton Takes Kentucky

Obama has won majority of pledged delegates, stands less than 70 shy of 2,026 needed for nomination.

Tuesday night's Democratic primaries featured convincing wins by two candidates in wildly different contests, but, to the increasing frustration of voters, a familiar result. In an expected walkover win, Senator Hillary Clinton took Kentucky at 65 percent to 30 percent with all precincts reporting, while rival Senator Barack Obama easily cruised to victory in Oregon's quirky mail-in-ballot-only election by a 58 to 42 percent margin, with 88 percent of precincts reporting.

The win helped Obama cross what his camp is calling a crucial milestone, as he has now won a majority of the available pledged delegates (3,253) by passing the 1,627 barrier. With the lead in pledged delegates, the popular vote, states won and pledged superdelegates, Obama's supporters believe that he has done everything necessary to win the nomination, though Clinton has vowed to stay in the race until the final two primaries are held in early June. According to CNN, Obama's delegate total to date is 1,961 to Clinton's 1,775, pledged superdelegates included. He now stands less than 70 delegates shy of the 2,026 needed for the nomination.

In a speech in Louisville, Clinton called her Kentucky victory an "overwhelming vote of confidence," thanking her supporters and once again vowing to fight until the end.

"It's not just Kentucky bluegrass that's music to my ears. It's the sound of your overwhelming vote of confidence even in the face of some pretty tough odds," Clinton said. "We're winning the popular vote, and I'm more determined than ever to see that every vote is cast and every ballot is counted."

After defeating Obama by more than 40 points last Tuesday in West Virginia, Clinton's Kentucky showing chalked up another easy victory in a state with a large number of lower-middle-class, rural whites, a crucial voting bloc she has repeatedly said Obama has not shown he can tap into for support in November.

After reportedly catching flack from the Clinton campaign — which is said to be $31 million in debt — for plans to announce his victory in the hard-fought race after Tuesday's vote, Obama gave a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, that was less a victory lap than another look forward to the battle with his expected Republican foe, Senator John McCain, according to CNN. In the state in which he notched the first win of the season — a victory that helped him gain front-runner status — Obama made a point of shaking hands and greeting his predominantly white supporters as he walked to the stage with his two young daughters and wife, Michelle.

"It is good to be back in Iowa!" Obama said, opening his speech with a line about the "spirit of change" and a tribute to long-serving Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, who, it was revealed on Tuesday, is suffering from a malignant brain tumor. "It was in this great state where we took the first steps of an unlikely journey to change America. ... From the very beginning, you knew that this journey was not about me or any of the other candidates in this race. It was about whether this country, at this defining moment, will continue down the same road that has failed us for so long, or whether we will seize this opportunity to take a different path, to forge a different future for this country that we love."

Speaking to supporters who he said comprise Democrats of all races, Republicans who are fed up with the direction of their party and people of all ages, Obama did not declare victory in Oregon — where polls were still nearly 45 minutes from closing as he took the stage. But did say that with the majority of delegates in hand, his supporters had put him "within reach" of the party's nomination. While some of the night's numbers from Oregon were promising for Obama — according to CNN, he won 70 percent of the 18-to-29-year-old vote to Clinton's 30 — Clinton's landslide in Kentucky extended to the Illinois senator's core demographic, as she won the 17-to-29-year-old vote there 54 percent to 41 percent.

"The road here has been long; there have been bumps along the way. I have made some mistakes," Obama said. "But also it's partly because we've traveled this road with one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for this office." Praising Clinton's long record of public service and tenacity, Obama's latest kind words for his sometimes bitter rival were a further sign that the two have, for now, set aside the rancorous back-and-forth that once defined this tight race. "Some may see the millions upon millions of votes cast for each of us as evidence that our party's divided," Obama said. "But I see it as proof that we have never been more energized and united in our desire to take this country in a new direction."

He then turned his sights on McCain, saying the toughest battle is ahead, with an opponent who arrived in Washington nearly 30 years ago as a Vietnam war hero and who earned what Obama termed an "admirable" reputation for straight talk and "occasional" independence from his party. "But this year's Republican primary was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other, and that's a contest that John McCain won."

Next up for the Democrats is a caucus in Puerto Rico on June 1 and the final pair of primaries in South Dakota and Montana on June 3.

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