, Newburyport, MA

Election Connection

February 11, 2008

Obama takes charge in Maine Democratic caucuses

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Barack Obama defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton in Maine presidential caucuses Sunday, grabbing a majority of delegates as the state's Democrats ignored the snowy weather and turned out in record numbers for municipal gatherings.

Despite the wintry weather, the turnout shattered the previous caucus record as Democrats in 420 Maine towns and cities decided how the state's 24 delegates will be allotted at the party's national convention in August.

With 99 percent of the participating precincts reporting, Obama led in state delegates elected over Clinton, 2,079 to 1,396, with 18 uncommitted.

The voting came a day after Obama and Clinton made personal appeals here, and after Obama picked up wins in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington.

Exulting in his string of victories Sunday night, Obama told a crowd of 18,000 in Virginia Beach, Va.: "We have won on the Atlantic coast, we have won on the Gulf coast, we have won on the Pacific coast and we have won between those coasts."

But Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, said the candidate "still faces an uphill battle in every upcoming contest because the Clintons are far better known and have a political machine that's been honed over two decades."

Obama won 15 of Maine's delegates to the national convention and Clinton won nine. In the overall race for the nomination, Clinton leads with 1,136, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates. Obama has 1,108.

Caucus organizers had expected heavy participation at the caucuses, but snow was falling and gusting winds hit as many of the gatherings were scheduled.

In the end, excitement over the races prevailed over the weather with more than 40,000 votes, far surpassing the old record of 17,000 set in 2004 when John Kerry and Howard Dean were vying for the party's nomination, party executive director Arden Manning said.

Caucuses started late in Bangor and several other locations across the state because so many people showed up that they were lined up outside the doors.

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