Wis. voters give Obama decisive victory
Sen. Barack Obama decisively won the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary Tuesday, dealing another blow to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose...
The Washington Post
A look aheadMarch 4
Delegates at stake: 21 Democratic; 17 Republican
Delegates at stake: 141 Democratic; 85 Republican
Delegates at stake: 193 Democratic (126 primary, 67 caucuses); 137 Republican (primary)
Delegates at stake: 15 Democratic; 17 Republican
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Sen. Barack Obama decisively won the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary Tuesday, dealing another blow to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose imperiled candidacy now hangs on the outcomes in Ohio and Texas.
Obama also was favored to win late caucuses in Hawaii, his birth state.
In Wisconsin's Republican primary, Sen. John McCain easily defeated former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, moving McCain ever closer to clinching the GOP nomination. In a speech afterward, the Arizona senator all but dismissed Clinton as a potential adversary, focusing his rhetorical fire on Obama as offering an "eloquent but empty call for change."
After a week of sparring that included the first negative ads of the campaign, Obama emerged victorious in a critical general-election battleground. For the second week in a row, the Illinois senator made inroads into the coalition that Clinton has counted on — women and white working-class voters — while rolling up big margins among white men.
Obama celebrated his victory at a boisterous Houston rally attended by an estimated 19,000 people and exhorted them to give him another important push forward in Texas' March 4 primary. "Houston, the change we seek is still months and miles away, and we need the good people of Texas to help us get there," he said. "We will need you to fight for every delegate it takes to win this nomination."
Mindful of McCain's attacks, however, he struck back. "I revere and honor John McCain's service to his country. He's a genuine hero," Obama said. "But when he embraces George Bush's failed economic policies, when he says he's willing to send our troops into another 100 years in Iraq, then he represents the party of yesterday, and we want to be the party of tomorrow."
Clinton was in Ohio, the other big March 4 state, appearing at a rally in Youngstown, where she did not acknowledge the Wisconsin results and another setback that pushed her further from the nomination that at one time seemed hers almost for the asking. Instead, she focused on the road ahead and the choices she said now confront Democratic voters.
Said Clinton: "One of us is ready to be commander in chief in a dangerous world. ... One of us has a plan to provide health care for every single American — no one left out. ... One of us has faced serious Republican opposition in the past. And one of us is ready to do it again."
Clinton aides said she called Obama to congratulate him later.
If the Wisconsin campaign was any indication, the next two weeks could be the most negative of the Democratic race. The Clinton team has seized on a series of issues and Obama statements to challenge his readiness to be president and his credibility as a candidate. Obama has issued pointed rebuttals of Clinton's criticism and airing response ads to her TV commercials, while his advisers have sparred with Clinton's in a flurry of daily conference calls and press releases.
An opening test will come Thursday night in Austin, when the candidates meet in their first debate since before Super Tuesday. Clinton's campaign sees that debate, and a second one next Tuesday in Cleveland, as her best opportunity to halt Obama's momentum.
The Clinton campaign had sought to play down expectations in Wisconsin, describing the state as one where the combination of liberal party activists and independent voters gave Obama a clear advantage. But Wisconsin's electorate also includes a substantial number of blue-collar workers who have been prime Clinton targets, and an African-American community that is smaller than in many states.
Obama now has won eight states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands since Super Tuesday, and Clinton advisers now acknowledge she must win handily in Ohio and Texas.
Clinton's roots in Texas go back three decades, to the 1972 campaign of George McGovern. She has clear strength among Hispanics and a network of friends and supporters in many other key constituencies. But Obama hopes to tap a younger generation of leaders and to cut into Clinton's edge among Latino and working-class voters.
In Ohio, Clinton advisers see an electorate highly sensitive to economic issues and potentially receptive to her bread-and-butter message of bringing aid, benefits and opportunity to workers displaced or threatened by job losses because of global changes in the economy.
Obama, however, plans to stress their differences on trade and the North American Free Trade Agreement and to sharpen his economic message.
The key to Obama's success in Wisconsin was his ability to tap into the coalition Clinton had assembled in many other states. It was a replication of the contours of his victory last week in Virginia. If it continues, it will put Clinton at a substantial disadvantage in upcoming states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Obama got more support from women, less-educated and lower-income voters and white working-class voters than he generally did in other states. As a result, he was able to overcome a Wisconsin electorate that was heavily female and that included no more independent voters than it did four years ago.
Women made up 58 percent of the Wisconsin electorate, and they have been a key Clinton constituency. But the two candidates split the group Tuesday night. Obama, meanwhile, won men by more than 30 percentage points.
Washington Post reporters Anne E. Kornblut and Jonathan Weisman contributed to this report.
|How the presidential candidates fared in Tuesday's contests, in voting percentages and delegate allocations*:|
|* Precincts reporting: 97 percent in Wisconsin, 0 percent in Hawaii|
|How the presidential candidates fared in Tuesday's Wisconsin primary, in voting percentages and delegate allocations (97 percent of precincts reporting):|
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