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For Barack Obama, South Dakota's vote carries symbolic value

June 3, 2008 |  3:32 pm

The long-anticipated close to the Democratic presidential race seemingly has arrived, with only the theatrics of the final act yet to be scripted. Still, a mini-drama well worth watching will be played out in South Dakota tonight.

Barack Obama is expected to win in Montana, but as South Dakotans vote today in the other contest that brings the curtain down on the primary season, the result there are seen as up in the air. And although Obama will be focusing tonight, Wednesday and the rest of this week on officially clinching his party's nomination, he and his brain trust undoubtedly would like to do so with two final wins, rather than a split decision.

Daschle_2 Symbolism is at work; the difference between a final sprint through the finish line, rather than jogging across it.

Taking even a longer view, recall that Obama pulled ahead in his race with Hillary Clinton -- to stay, as it turned out -- thanks to an impressive string of primary and caucus wins in the four weeks after Super Tuesday on Feb. 5. But Clinton rebounded at that point.

On March 4, her wins in the Ohio and Texas primaries enabled her to stave off calls that she end her candidacy. And since then, she's showed impressive strengths -- especially in her landslide wins in West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico.

Tallying all the contests from March 4 through today -- and counting the Texas primary/caucus "two-step" as distinct results -- finds that Clinton has won 8, Obama 6, and one was a virtual tie; Obama's margin in the Guam caucuses was 7 votes and the two candidates split the 4 delegates at stake.

It's purely academic, but the Obama forces would prefer to look back on this final segment of the nomination battle and see a scorecard that, with victories in Montana and South Dakota, reads 8-8-1.

That is especially so for one senior advisor to Obama -- the former senator from South Dakota, Tom Daschle.

It was bad enough that his constituents ousted him from office, and his perch as the Democratic Senate leader, in 2004. It would be another embarrassment for him if he can't bring his home state into the Obama column. Nor would it help his prospects, which have been discussed, as an Obama running mate.

-- Don Frederick

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