From: Reuters
Published March 8, 2008 04:18 PM

Obama takes lead in Wyoming

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama took a big early lead over rival Hillary Clinton in Wyoming on Saturday, as he looked to bounce back from losses that gave Clinton new hope in their hotly contested presidential battle.

Wyoming Democrats turned out in big numbers for the latest showdown between the two Democrats. With just five of 23 caucus sites still to report their numbers, Obama had a 59 percent to 40 percent lead.

Obama, an Illinois senator, was looking to slow Clinton's momentum after she captured three of four contests on Tuesday to prolong their bruising duel for the right to face Republican John McCain in November's presidential election.

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Heavily Republican Wyoming has just 12 delegates to the August convention that will pick the Democratic nominee, one of the smallest hauls in the race, but every state has become crucial in the battle between the two senators.

Both Obama and Clinton campaigned in Wyoming on Friday, and the two candidates took the day off at home on Saturday. Next up is a primary in Mississippi on Tuesday before Obama and Clinton square off in Pennsylvania on April 22.

Obama hoped to add at least slightly to his almost insurmountable lead in the pledged delegates who will help decide the nominee. The exact breakdown of delegates in Wyoming was not immediately clear.

Neither Obama nor Clinton is likely to reach the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination without help from 796 "superdelegates" -- party officials and insiders free to back any candidate.

The states of Michigan and Florida, which were stripped of their delegates in a dispute with the national party and held unsanctioned contests, also could figure in a final resolution to the tight race.

Officials in both states have discussed redoing their contests so they would produce delegates to the convention, but the candidates, the state parties and national party would have to agree on the timing, funding and formats.

The contest in Wyoming was a caucus, which requires voters to turn up at public sites at specific times. Obama has been particularly successful in caucuses, where his organizational strength and grass-roots enthusiasm have given him an advantage.

Clinton, a New York senator, has complained about the caucus system and has said she performs better in primary elections in such big states as Ohio, California and New Jersey that Democrats will have to win to capture the White House.

Wyoming, the home state of Republican Vice President Dick Cheney, has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1964. It does have a popular Democratic governor, Dave Freudenthal, who has not endorsed either Obama or Clinton.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

(For more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at http://blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)

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