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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Analysis: Time, delegate math working against Clinton

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON - Time is running out on Hillary Rodham Clinton, the long-ago front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination who now trails Barack Obama in delegates, states won and popular votes.

Compounding Clinton's woes, Obama appears on track to finish the primary campaign fewer than 100 delegates shy of the 2,025 needed to win.

Clinton argues to Democratic officialdom that other factors should count, an unprovable assertion that she's more electable chief among them. But she undercut her own claim in Wednesday night's debate, answering "yes, yes, yes" when asked whether her rival could win the White House.

There's little if any public evidence the party's elite, the superdelegates who will attend the convention, are buying her argument anyway.

In the days since the surfacing of Obama's worst gaffe of the campaign — an observation that small town Americans are bitter folk who cling to religion and guns out of frustration — he has gained six convention superdelegates, to four for Clinton.

"I investigated and studied the context of the whole speech," said one of the six, Reggie Whitten of Oklahoma, who told Obama on Tuesday he would support him. "I think the comment was to some extent taken out of context and blown up, but I can tell you I think people in small towns have a lot of reason to be bitter," added Whitten, who grew up in Seminole, a town of 6,700.

Clinton leads in Pennsylvania polls in advance of Tuesday's primary there, with 158 convention delegates at stake. A victory is essential to her chances of winning the nomination, but far from sufficient. Instead, a triumph of any magnitude would instantly establish Indiana on May 6 as her next must-win state, particularly since her aides have privately signaled that defeat is likely in North Carolina on the same day.

Overall, Obama's delegate lead is 1,645-1,507. That masks an even larger advantage among those won in primaries and caucuses. There, his advantage is 1,414-1,250.

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