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Obama Predicts a Race Through June


Senator Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and Pittsburgh Steelers Owner Dan Rooney greet customers at Pamela's diner in the Strip District April 22, 2008 in Pittsburgh. (Getty Images)

By Paul Kane
PITTSBURGH -- Girding for defeat in the Keystone State today, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) predicted the primary campaign would last through June and suggested that no knockout blow of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) would be forthcoming.

"I've come to the conclusion that this race will continue until the last primary or caucus vote is cast, and that's not that far away," Obama told reporters while eating pancakes at a local diner here as voters began casting their ballots.

Those last primaries, in South Dakota and Montana, come on June 3, after which Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has asked any undeclared superdelegates to make public their choice by July 1 to avoid a drawn-out fight throughout the summer.

Questions about Obama's ability to attract white, working-class voters have haunted the candidate since Super Tuesday, keeping the race in play. Obama told reporters today that those voters would come around to him in a general election campaign and not side with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee.

"This whole notion that somehow because there are some voters -- whether it's older voters or blue collar voters -- who prefer Senator Clinton over me, that somehow that means I can't get their vote, that just isn't borne out by the polling," Obama said. "And it's not borne out by the history of people's voting patterns. The party's going to come together after the nomination is settled."

But a large loss in Pennsylvania would reopen the debate about the Democratic front-runner's ability to connect with these voters, a theme the Clinton campaign has hammered away it in recent days. Obama will have outspent her by a more than 2-to-1 margin in advertising -- blanketing everything from network television to Philadelphia Phillies games on local cable -- and, according to the Clinton campaign, may not have changed many votes.

Obama steered clear of making predictions but noted that his campaign "has to consider ourselves the underdogs." He did, however, suggest that he would pick up enough pledged delegates today to maintain a very strong lead over Clinton in that total, making it all but certain he would end up, in June, with leads over her in pledged delegates, states won and total votes.

"If you take a look at how the delegates play themselves out at the end of the night, you should be able to measure, given how many contests are left, whether they can make up that ground," he said.

While some Democrats question whether a prolonged primary campaign hurts Obama in the general election, the candidate said that for now it has helped him build get-out-the-vote operations in many states.

"The bright side of that is we're seeing record turnout, record involvement. We're building organizations that are getting tested," he said. "Should I end up being the nominee, the work that we've done here in Pennsylvania, I think, will be extraordinarily helpful in the general election."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 22, 2008; 1:05 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Hillary Rodham Clinton , Primaries  
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