Posted: February 9, 2008 9:03 PM
Obama Scores Decisive Wins in Wash., Neb. Caucuses
Huge numbers of Democratic voters flooded caucus sites Saturday, giving Sen. Barack Obama projected decisive victories in both rural Nebraska and Washington State.
In Washington State, Obama had a commanding 35 percent lead, garnering 67 percent of the vote with 42 percent of the precincts reporting.
With 78 delegates to the Democratic National Convention at stake, Washington State was the top prize at stake on Saturday and Obama hopes to increase his lead among the pledged delegates elected in the primaries.
Headed into the day, Sen. Hillary Clinton had a 57-delegate lead, largely fueled by her support among super delegates — party leaders who get a free pass to the convention and are not required to back any candidate but often do.
Obama had hoped to do well Saturday, counting in part on the affluent and well-educated Democratic base among which he has done well among in the past. His campaign saw a major boost Friday when Gov. Christine Gregoire announced her support for the Illinois senator.
“I’ve done some soul searching. I’ve done a lot of debating. But I’ve come here today to announce my endorsement of the next president of the United States, Barack Obama,” Gregoire declared before a packed 18,000-capacity arena in downtown Seattle.
Clinton did not go quietly in the Evergreen State, campaigning strongly in the state up through Friday.
At a rally before 6,000 supporters, Clinton echoed her opponent’s catch phrase, telling supporters, “When it comes to universal health care, my opponent is saying, ‘No, we can’t,’ Well, I say, yes we can, and yes we will, if we make the right decision in this election.”
In Nebraska, Democratic officials running the state’s first caucus were stunned by the thousands who turned out to vote, flooding schools and crowding roads around sites hosting the contests.
The Omaha World-Herald reported a scene at one caucus where one organizer, Jack Bangert, climbed onto the scorer’s table at a high school gym to try and bring order among the hundreds of waving signs.
“We know it’s a mess,” Bangert shouted into a microphone, straining his voice to be heard above the din. “But this is democracy, and it’s the best we’ve got.”
Other sites reported up to a two-hour delay in getting the voting underway, but the tallied votes revealed that Obama had scored a decisive win, garnering 69 percent of the vote with 79 percent of the precincts reporting.
It will take some time to decipher how many delegates Obama will come out of these two contests with as the Democratic system for awarding delegates requires clear vote totals within Congressional Districts.