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Hillary rebounds

Hillary Rodham Clinton has resuscitated her campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination by winning primaries in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island. With victories in three of the four States where nomination contests were held on March 4, Ms Clinton can now face down the section of the party leadership that was urging her to concede in favour of Barack Obama, who built up impressive momentum by winning every one of the dozen primaries and caucuses held aft er Super Tuesday, February 5. The March 4 outcome has checked the Obama surge but the Senator from Illinois retains his lead in the delegate count, which strongly suggests that the contest will have to be settled at the party convention. While Ms Clinton won by a 55 to 44 per cent margin in Ohio, the gain in pledged delegates from this State will not help her narrow the gap significantly. The victory in the Texas primary is likely to yield even less since only two-thirds of the delegates from the Lone Star State are selected through the primary system, the rest being picked in caucuses in which Ms Clinton appeared to be trailing. Any gains made in Rhode Island will be offset by the delegates Mr. Obama picked up in Vermont where he scored a 60 to 38 per cent win.

It seems unlikely that the pattern of pledged Democratic delegates will change significantly by the end of the dozen nomination contests that lie ahead. However, Ms Clinton will be heartened by the fact that she has been able to stop Mr. Obama from capturing chunks of important constituencies — women, low-income Whites, and Hispanics — who appeared to be slipping out of her grasp. There are also some intimations of gender consolidation favouring the person who aspires to be the first woman President of the United States. A factor favouring the Clinton campaign is the unlikelihood of Mr. Obama winning enough pledged delegates to reach the magic number of 2025 at the party convention. That means the super-delegates — office-bearers of the party as well as legislators and Governors elected on its ticket — are likely to carry greater clout than they usually do. With a deadlock very much on the cards, Democrats might need to think of re-opening the nominating processes in Michigan and Florida that were cancelled because party officials in these States disrupted the campaign calendar. What is blindingly clear now is that the Democratic Party must get ready to overcome any bitter internal division, considering that the Republicans are already closing ranks behind John McCain, their presidential candidate.

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