Obama: Let the Contest Continue Into June
By Shailagh Murray
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Many of his supporters may be growing impatient, but Sen. Barack Obama said today that he wouldn't nudge Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton out of the race.
"My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants," Obama told reporters in Johnstown, Pa. "Her name's on the ballot, and she is a fierce and formidable competitor, and she obviously believes that she would make the best nominee and the best president."
He added, "I think that, you know, she should be able to compete and her supporters should be able to support her, for as long as they are willing or able." And that could be into early June, through all 10 remaining primaries, Obama said. "We will have had contests in all 50 states plus several territories. We will have tallied up the pledged delegate vote, we will have tallied up the popular vote, we will have tallied up how many states were won by who, and then at that point I think people should have more than enough information to make a decision. "
He downplayed the notion that an extended contest could bruise the eventual winner, to Republican Sen. John McCain's advantage. "I think that the notion that the party's been divided by this contest is somewhat overstated," Obama said. "There's no doubt that, among some of my supporters or some of her supporters, there's probably been some irritation created. But I also think, every contest you've seen, in every state -- huge jumps in Democratic registration, including independents and Republicans who are changing registration to vote in the Democratic primaries. You know, those are people who are now invested in what happens. And I think that bodes very well for us in November."
Obama was on the second day of a six-day bus trip through Pennsylvania, the largest state remaining on the calendar, and one that polls show favors Clinton. He downplayed expectations for the April 22 contest, despite his spending more than $1.5 million on ads in the state. "We want to do as well as we can in Pennsylvania. We may not be able to win, but I think we have a good chance and we're going to work as hard as we can," he said.
Sen. Bob Casey, who endorsed Obama on Friday, spent a second day on the campaign trail, joining Obama for a series of public events, plus basketball and bowling. "The more time on the ground in Pennsylvania , the better he will do," the freshman Democrat predicted. "But look at the other side, they've been campaigning in this state for 15 years, think about it. So it's a tall order. But we're making progress."
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