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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Options Dwindling for Clinton

Adam Nagourney

In this case, a split was not a draw.

In what early returns suggested would be a win for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Indiana but a loss for her in North Carolina, Tuesday’s results did not fundamentally improve her chances of securing the Democratic presidential nomination. If anything, Mrs. Clinton’s options for overtaking Senator Barack Obama may have dwindled further.

For Mr. Obama, the apparently divided outcome came after a brutal period in which he was on the defensive over the inflammatory comments of his former pastor. That he was able to hold his own under those circumstances should allow him to make a case that he has proved his resilience in the face of questions about race, values and patriotism — the very kinds of issues that the Clinton campaign has suggested would leave him vulnerable in the general election.

When paired with Mr. Obama’s comfortable victory in North Carolina, a bigger state, Mrs. Clinton’s performance in Indiana did not seem to be enough to cut into Mr. Obama’s lead in pledged delegates or in his overall lead in the popular vote. And because Mrs. Clinton did not appear to come particularly close in North Carolina, despite a substantial effort there, she lost an opportunity to sow new doubts among Democratic leaders about Mr. Obama’s general-election appeal.

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