Obama leads in ongoing TX caucuses

March 31, 2008 4:21:18 AM PDT
The presidential contest in Texas appeared to tighten with weekend Democratic caucuses as Barack Obama led Hillary Clinton in incomplete county and senate district conventionresults. Obama won 2,235 delegates to the state convention, or 60 percent, in the Saturday caucuses, compared with 1,511 delegates, or 40 percent, for Clinton, according to an ongoing count Sunday by The Associated Press. There were still about 3,500 others to be counted.

Obama's campaign predicted he would win the overall delegate race in Texas because of caucus support, even though Clinton narrowly won the popular vote in primary balloting March 4. The caucus delegates ultimately will be winnowed and divvied up in June.

Clinton's campaign trumpeted its caucus successes in predominantly Hispanic regions along the Texas-Mexico border and elsewhere in South Texas and said it was too early to tell the Texas outcome.

"Hillary's delegates came out in full force," said Clinton spokeswoman Adrienne Elrod. "The Obama campaign may want to take a step back and wait until the official caucus results come in before declaring victory."

Obama's camp accused Clinton's of aggressively pushing to challenge and disqualify Obama delegates based on technicalities.

"Despite the Clinton campaign's widespread attempts to prevent many Texans from participating in their district convention, the voters of Texas confirmed Senator Obama's important delegate win in the Lone Star State," said Obama spokesman Josh Earnest.

As he did in earlier precinct caucusing, Obama scored some lopsided victories in senate district caucuses Saturday in Houston, Dallas and Austin. Those were among the largest and most delegate-rich, often lasting into the night.

Nearly 280 Democratic county and senate district conventions were held Saturday, when they were required to be scheduled under state law. Collin County north of Dallas held its convention Sunday because it said it couldn't find adequate meeting space until then.

A few small counties with only one delegate to the state event had no convention at all.

Texas Republicans also had county conventions, but theirs were to select who would get to go to the party's state meeting, not to battle over a delegate count. Almost all Texas GOP delegates to the national convention are chosen based on the primary vote.

The urban-area Democratic caucuses, some of them attended by thousands of people, were tension-inducing and often slow-going. Long lines to register delegates were the norm. The sign-ins -- reflecting whose supporters showed up for this round -- determined the delegate division between Clinton and Obama.

The crowd was mostly pro-Obama at Senate District 13's convention in Houston, where 61-year-old John Preston, active in Democratic politics his whole life, declared his backing of the Illinois senator and tried to persuade others.

"I think he can unite this country after the divisive hell we've been in the past seven years," he said.

The Texas Democratic Party said Sunday there were an estimated 100,000 convention participants statewide, which it said bode well for the party's competitiveness in the November general election.

"Overall, the Texas Democratic Party is pleased with the tremendous turnout and participation by Texas Democrats in every region of the state," said spokesman Hector Nieto.

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