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(CNN) — Sen. Barack Obama claimed victory in Mississippi’s Democratic primary Tuesday. “What we’ve tried to do is steadily make sure that in each state we are making the case about the need for change in this country. Obviously the people in Mississippi responded,” Obama told CNN after his win. Mississippi had 33 pledged delegates up for grabs, which will be allocated proportionally. The state’s Democratic voters were sharply divided among racial lines, exit polls indicate. As has been the case in many primary states, Obama won overwhelming support from African-American voters. They went for him over Clinton 91-9 percent. The state has a larger proportion African-Americans (36 percent, according to the 2000 census) than any other state in the country. And black voters make up nearly 70 percent of registered Democrats.
But Mississippi white voters overwhelmingly backed the New York senator, supporting her over Obama 72 percent to 21 percent. According to the Associated Press, only two other primary states were as racially polarized — neighboring Alabama, and Clinton’s former home state of Arkansas. The exit polls also indicated roughly 40 percent of Mississippi Democratic voters said race was an important factor in their vote, and 90 percent of those voters supported Obama. In Ohio, roughly one in five voters said race factored into their decision. About 60 percent of those voters picked Clinton over Obama. Clinton’s campaign issued a statement congratulating Obama on his win, and said they “look forward to campaigning in Pennsylvania and around the country as this campaign continues.”
Pennsylvania is the next battleground for the Democrats. It holds its primary on April 22 and has 158 delegates at stake.
Obama also finished first in the Texas Democratic caucuses. The caucuses were held last week, but the race was not called until Tuesday night. Obama will get more delegates out of the state than Clinton, who won the state’s primary. Under the Texas Democratic Party’s complex delegate selection plan, Texas voters participated in both a primary and caucuses last week. Two-thirds of the state’s 193 delegates were at stake at the primary, while the remaining third were decided by the caucuses. Obama leads Clinton in the overall delegate count 1,597-1,470, but neither candidate is close to the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.
Between 125,000 and 150,000 voters were expected to cast ballots Tuesday, according to Pamela Weaver of the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office. While the number would represent a 25 to 50 percent increase in turnout from the 2004 primaries, Weaver still described the voting rate as light to moderate. Obama touched on the Mississippi Delta’s economic struggles during a final campaign stop in Greenville, Mississippi, according to the AP.
“We just haven’t seen as much opportunity come to this area as we’d like,” he told those gathered at a restaurant, the AP reported. “And one of the challenges, I think, for the next president is making sure that we’re serving all communities and not just some communities.” Obama campaigned in Mississippi on Monday and spent part of Tuesday doing the same, while rival Clinton made a swing through the state on Thursday and Friday.
In addition, former President Bill Clinton made the rounds for his wife in Mississippi over the weekend. For Mississippi, it’s a moment to bask in the national spotlight. And for a state with images of a strictly segregated past, the Democratic primary is a chance to alter some long held stereotypes.
“We’re seeing a contest where I think you’re going to see a huge turnout of voters voting either for a woman or an African-American, and that gives us a chance to make a statement,” said Marty Wiseman, a professor of political science at Mississippi State University.
[ VIA CNN ]