Final Obama-Clinton battle Tuesday not likely to decide nominee
The long and gruelling Democratic presidential race enters its final stretch this week, with Barack Obama quietly optimistic and the former first lady Hillary Clinton defiant ahead of the last two state primaries on Tuesday, the dpa reported.
But it's unlikely that either Senator Obama, 46, or Senator Clinton, 60, will be able to claim the nomination by day's end in Montana and South Dakota, since neither is expected to reach the majority mark of delegates.
That means the final decision rests in the hands of about 170 still undeclared top Democrats, the so-called super delegates, who are the target of intense lobbying from both campaigns - and under pressure to take a stand by month's end.
Clinton gained some last-minute momentum after trouncing Obama in Puerto Rico's primary on Sunday. But the 36-point victory could be Clinton's last, as Obama is favoured in both Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday - the final votes in the state-by-state intra- party contests that began with Iowa back on January 3.
The former first lady's chances of overcoming Obama's delegate lead are fast dwindling, after she was dealt another blow on Saturday when party officials reinstated only half the delegates awarded in the disputed primaries of Florida and Michigan.
Obama has wracked up a slim but solid lead in the race for delegates to secure the party's nod to run in November's general election.
The Illinois senator is less than 50 delegates away from the mark of 2,118 that would hand him the nomination. But with only 31 delegates available Tuesday, Obama will not be able to win the party's nod outright.
"My political obituary has yet to be written, and we're going forward," Clinton told reporters aboard her campaign plane Sunday night. "It is not over until it's over."
Democratic Party leaders have called for super delegates to make up their mind by the end of June to give the winner time to prepare for the general election fight against Republican John McCain.
Even if Obama passes the 2,118-delegate threshold, it is unclear whether Clinton will immediately drop out of the race. Her campaign has reserved the right to challenge Saturday's Michigan-Florida decision, a threat that could carry the bitter battle into July.