Democrat passions run high at Washinton caucuses

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Special report from Ann Turner in Seattle, Washington

Illinois Senator Barack Obama took the victory in the Washington caucus results on Saturday, beating out rival New York Senator Hillary Clinton by a strong margin.

In the Republican primary, Arizona Senator John McCain pulled off a narrow win against former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

In the Washington Republican caucuses, John McCain led over Mike Huckabee 26 percent to 24 percent with 87 percent of precincts reporting in.

McCain was predicted as the winner in the contest by Northwest Cable News.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul followed in third with 21 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (who is no longer running) in fourth with 16 percent. Thirteen percent of voters remained undecided.

With 96 percent of precincts in the Washington Democratic caucuses reporting in, Barack Obama led Hillary Clinton by 68 percent to 31 percent of the vote.

Based on the results, CNN projected Obama as the winner in the contest.

One percent of voters remained undecided between the two powerhouse candidates.

At the 46th District Democratic caucus, attended by this reporter, Obama supporters overwhelmingly outnumbered Clinton supporters.

Obama representatives were tightly organised and stood ready to greet incoming voters both inside and outside the door of the caucus location.

However, there seemed to be no real organisation of Clinton supporters and finding a Clinton volunteer was a difficult search.

Obama signs, buttons, nametags and stickers were a vast sea through which a small convoy of Clinton supporters waded in confusion.

During the caucus, there were impassioned speeches from both candidate’s supporters, but Clinton speakers seemed outnumbered by Obama speakers nearly ten to one.

Most Obama supporters seemed primary moved by his healthcare plan options and his passionate stump speeches.

“Inspirational” was the word of the day at the caucus for Obama supporters.

Clinton supporters in our neighbourhood caucus at least seemed on the defensive for the most part, speaking primarily about Obama’s lack of experience, his voting record and even his refusal to remove an anti-gay performer from his campaign tour in the South late last year.

Those who spoke of Clinton directly praised her experience as a First Lady and touted her environmental platform and ‘mandated’ universal health care plan.

The atmosphere at the caucus was excited and heavily driven by the motivation and dedication of the Obama supporters.

The caucus location was packed, with some neighborhood sections spilling over and some standing against walls.

A great deal of young voters flooded into the caucus, mostly wearing Obama campaign stickers, and many of the younger generation spoke with fervour about their zeal to elect Obama as president.

The large turnout at the caucus location attended by this reporter was reportedly echoed across the state of Washington on Saturday.

Whoever ends up the eventual Democratic presidential nominee, it becomes more and more obvious that the Democrats are getting involved in the voting process in record numbers.

This drive to be part of a historical campaign was certainly reflected at a campaign rally for Obama in Seattle on Friday.

At Key Arena in Seattle Centre, Obama spoke passionately to a crowd estimated between 15,000 and 20,000 people.

Lines began forming for the rally before 6 am, according to the Seattle Times.

The rally was so highly attended that officials at the arena were forced to close the doors at 11 am and turn away thousands of people who had come to see Obama speak.

Those already in the arena were not allowed outside for fear of people pushing through the doors to get inside.

Obama, remarking on the attendance at the rally said:

“This crowd is extraordinary. As big as any crowd we’ve gotten anywhere in the country.”

In contrast, Clinton spoke before a crowd of only about 5,000 supporters on Thursday evening; her healthcare platform a major pivot of her rally speech.

On Friday, she moved on to Tacoma for a health care forum at the University of Pugent Sound and a town hall meeting in Spokane.

Before the rally in Seattle, Obama visited the McKinstry Co. in Georgetown, accompanied by Seattle Major Greg Nickels.

The ‘green’ company retrofits buildings for energy efficiency.

Obama’s wife Michelle, meanwhile, traveled to Spokane for a rally in support of her husband.

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, one of the state’s 17 ‘superdelegates,’ announced her endorsement of Obama as the Democratic presidential nominee before his appearance Friday afternoon in Seattle.

“He is leading us toward a positive feeling of hope in our country and I love seeing that happen,” Gregoire said in an interview with the Associated Press.

“I believe the nation faces significant challenges domestically and internationally and Obama is the person who has the ability to reach across artificial divides and move our nation forward.

“Barack is that kind of leader.”

Seventy-eight pledged delegates will be awarded proportionally based on each candidate’s voter support in the caucuses.

Seventeen party leaders and elected officials will serve as unpledged delegates.

An additional two unpledged delegates will be selected at the Washington state convention.

The Washington Democratic caucuses were closed, meaning voters had to be registered as Democrats in order to cast their vote in the contest.

Ann Turner © 2008; All Rights Reserved