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Obama, Indiana election close, aims now at McCain

May 6, 2008 | 11:16 pm

According to the prepared remarks for his North Carolina victory speech Tuesday evening in Raleigh, Sen. Barack Obama was supposed to say, “I want to start by congratulating Senator Clinton on her victory in the state of Indiana.”

But Obama changed that line. And here's what he ended up saying, “I want to start by congratulating Senator Clinton on what appears to be her victory in the great state of Indiana.”

It may have been a hopeful move on his part, having won a big victory in North Carolina and, in the end, coming a whole Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama comes close to another victory in the Indiana election after big North Carolina win plans general election campaign nowlot closer to putting Sen. Hillary Clinton away for good with a surprise win in Indiana. But by apparently coming within about 20,000 votes of also capturing the Hoosier State, Obama's campaign now says it plans a major change in direction.

On the Obama plane out of North Carolina tonight, his chief strategist, David Axelrod, apparently convinced that Clinton can no longer beat them, told The Times' Peter Nicholas that Obama will likely cut back his intensive primary campaigning in the remaining states; West Virginia is next Tuesday. And start his actual general election campaign almost immediately.

"We've got to multi-task here," Axelrod said enroute back to Chicago. "Superdelegates are a part of this and also a focus on the general election is important. Sen. McCain has basically run free for some time now. Everyone is eager to get on with this."

Of course, putting out such self-serving remarks may also help feed the impression that pervaded much of the evening's television chatter on how much longer Clinton could last and how graceful would be her exit. Right now, the campaigns' attention is focused on the less than 300 uncommitted superdelegates.

The fact is Obama scored so well in Lake County, Indiana especially among Gary's overwhelmingly black population, that he came within some 20,000 of scoring a huge upset.

Obama could start campaigning more against Sen. John McCain as a way of, in effect, marginalizing Clinton's continuing effort and convincing superdelegates it's all but over.

A major swing by a growing number of them could undermine Clinton's rationale for continuing, although no one underestimates the remaining fight in Clinton.

--Andrew Malcolm

                                                                                                                      Photo Credit: ABC News