- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2008

BILOXI, Miss. — Sen. Barack Obama scored another double-digit victory over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in a Southern state last night, winning Mississippi’s primary as the candidates traded political shots and signaled that the bitterness between them will continue for weeks.

The win was 59 percent to Mrs. Clinton’s 39 percent with 92 percent of precincts reporting. Based on the incomplete results, it appeared Mr. Obama would win 18 delegates to Mrs. Clinton’s 12, helping the senator from Illinois strengthen his delegate advantage over the former first lady, but putting neither Democrat much closer to securing the party’s nomination.

Both candidates were already looking ahead, spending the day campaigning in Pennsylvania before that state’s April 22 primary and sparring over remarks that Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro made about Mr. Obama’s race — the latest episode in which surrogates for the candidates caused controversy.

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” Mrs. Ferraro, the 1984 vice-presidential nominee and women’s rights icon, told the Daily Breeze newspaper in California.

“If he was a woman [of any color], he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

The Obama campaign called the remarks “completely out of line,” and Mrs. Clinton of New York told reporters that she disagreed with them. Mrs. Ferraro herself told Fox News that she does not consider the remarks racist and was “sorry” if others felt they were.

“I am absolutely offended by the e-mails, the phone calls and all the threats I have been getting. It’s really terrible, and it’s come out of the Obama campaign,” she said.

She also suggested yesterday, “They’re attacking me because I’m white.”

Obama supporters said Mrs. Clinton hadn’t gone far enough and should remove Mrs. Ferraro from her campaign team. But Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams said Mr. Obama had promised to focus on the issues so that supporters and staffers do not get “overzealous” in their criticism of his rival.

“Senator Obama’s campaign staff seems to have forgotten his pledge. We have not,” Mrs. Williams said. “And we reject these false, personal and politically calculated attacks on the eve of a primary.”

Last week, a top foreign-policy adviser to Mr. Obama resigned after calling Mrs. Clinton a “monster” in an interview with the Scotsman newspaper.

The six weeks between now and Pennsylvania’s primary — the longest stretch of time since the campaign season kicked off in Iowa two months ago — means that voters there may have to get used to the increasingly bitter tone of the race.

The racial tension seems to have spilled over into the Mississippi election, where the results were more polarized than in previous primaries this year. Nine in 10 black voters favored Mr. Obama, while 70 percent of white voters backed Mrs. Clinton.

Associated Press exit polls showed that one in five whites said race was important to their votes, and nearly all voted for Mrs. Clinton. Four in 10 blacks said race was important to their votes, and nearly all voted for Mr. Obama.

Some voters think the Democrats should join forces. Six in 10 Obama supporters said they would favor a joint Clinton-Obama ticket, while four in 10 Clinton supporters agreed.

Last night’s win, after a victory in the Wyoming caucuses Saturday, allowed Mr. Obama to recapture some of the momentum that he lost on March 4 when Mrs. Clinton took Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona scored an expected win yesterday as he has already locked up the Republican nomination and all of his opponents have dropped out of the race.

Mr. Obama told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last night that the Mississippi victory is “just another win in our column, and we are getting more delegates.”

“What we have tried to do is steadily make sure that in each state, we’re making the case about the need for change in this country,” he said. “And obviously, the people of Mississippi responded.”

He also weighed in on the Ferraro remarks yesterday, telling a Pennsylvania newspaper the comments were “divisive.” “I think anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd,” he said.

An AP tally of delegates before yesterday’s results were finalized had Mr. Obama with 1,579 and Mrs. Clinton with 1,473. Mrs. Clinton has about 250 superdelegates, and Mr. Obama has about 210. Superdelegates are members of Congress, leading Democratic activists and party leaders who get a direct vote at the August nominating convention. MissChart

Turnout in Mississippi was not expected to be as high as in other states that have voted this year, but that was partly because many Hurricane Katrina victims registered to vote have yet to return to the region. Volunteers studying precinct maps stamped big, red “X” stickers on areas where there is still no population 2½ years after the storm ravaged the region.

In competing Pennsylvania appearances yesterday, the Democrats traded barbs about energy policy, Iraq, experience and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

While touring a wind-turbine manufacturer outside of Philadelphia, Mr. Obama told voters that he would invest $150 billion over 10 years to create “green” jobs that focus on wind and solar power and energy efficiency. It was his first campaign stop in Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Clinton, in Harrisburg, Pa., went after Mr. Obama’s energy policy.

“In 2005, when we had a chance to say ‘no’ to Dick Cheney and his energy bill, my opponent said yes and voted for it with all of those tax subsidies and giveaways that have been used by the oil companies and others to retard the development of clean, renewable energy,” she said.

“We’re going to have to fight to make the changes against the special interests that dominate Washington. When it counted, I said no; he said yes.”

Jim and Leslie Clauson of Biloxi, former Republicans who volunteered for Mr. Obama, said they support him in part because they are tired of such partisan fights in Washington.

Voters celebrating at their house last night were elated to get attention from presidential hopefuls.

“We’ve never meant anything to anyone. We’re Democrats in Mississippi,” Laurianne Manchester said with a grin.

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