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As Ky., Oregon, vote, it's Obama vs. Clinton ... and McCain

Two more presidential primaries take place today, in Kentucky and Oregon, and every indicator suggests a familiar set of results.

Two more presidential primaries take place today, in Kentucky and Oregon, and every indicator suggests a familiar set of results.

Hillary Rodham Clinton seems headed for another blowout win, this one in Kentucky, while Barack Obama, the likely victor in Oregon, will move ever closer to nailing down the Democratic presidential nomination.

In his campaign appearances yesterday, Obama virtually ignored his intraparty rival and focused instead on John McCain, engaging the presumptive Republican nominee in a foreign-policy dispute and again tying him to President Bush.

Early in the day, McCain, who was in Chicago, took Obama to task for having said Sunday that Iran was "tiny" compared with the former Soviet Union and did not pose a comparable threat.

Said McCain: "Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the government of Iran poses is anything but 'tiny.' . . .

"Such a statement betrays the depth of Sen. Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment. These are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess."

Obama, after justifying his original analysis, sought to turn the tables on his possible opponent in the fall.

"So let me be absolutely clear: Iran is a grave threat," he said. "But this threat has grown, primarily - and this is the irony - the reason Iran is so much more powerful now than it was a few years ago is because of the Bush-McCain policy of fighting an endless war in Iraq."

Obama noted that the United States negotiated with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War, under presidents of both parties, and yet Republicans have castigated him for advocating talks with Iran.

Clinton, left out of this back-and-forth, reaffirmed her intention to stay in the race regardless of the outcomes today and warned Obama not to get ahead of himself.

"I'm going to make my case and I'm going to make it until we have a nominee," she said in Maysville, Ky., according to the Associated Press. "But we're not going to have one today, and we're not going to have one tomorrow, and we're not going to have one the next day."

Obama, stumping in Montana in advance of its June 3 primary, acknowledged the nominating contest is not over. But he's acting as if it were. He is to spend the rest of this week in Iowa and Florida, two states put on his schedule solely for their importance in the general election.

Aides to Obama had suggested two weeks ago that the candidate might claim victory tonight - when he is certain to have amassed an absolute majority of the pledged delegates awarded in the primary and caucus season.

But over the weekend, Obama said he would not do so, telling reporters that passing the milestone "doesn't mean we declare victory."

That didn't stop the Clinton campaign from slamming him on the point, anyway.

"Premature victory laps and false declarations of victory are unwarranted," said Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson. "Declaring mission accomplished does not make it so."

In today's primaries, 103 pledged delegates are at stake, 52 in Oregon, 51 in Kentucky. Polls give Obama a lead in the mail-in Oregon primary, Clinton a larger one in Kentucky.

Obama leads Clinton in total delegates, 1,915 to 1,721, putting him 111 short of the magic number of 2,026, according to an AP count.

The magic number could rise after May 31, when a panel of the Democratic National Committee tries to figure out what to do about the disputed delegations from Michigan and Florida. Those two states, which held their primaries earlier than party rules allowed, officially have no delegates at the moment.

Obama's delegate total grew yesterday thanks to several superdelegate endorsements, the most notable coming from Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia.

The senior member of the Senate, Byrd, 90, backed Obama even though his state voted for Clinton last week by a ratio of more than 2-1. Byrd called Obama "a shining young statesman . . . a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian."

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign, in its continuing effort to woo the dwindling ranks of undeclared superdelegates, continued to target the overall popular vote as a key indicator of the candidates' comparative strength.

At the moment, Obama has a popular-vote lead of about 590,000, not counting the disputed Michigan and Florida primaries or four state caucuses - Iowa, Maine, Nevada and Washington - for which there are only estimates of the popular vote.

If all of those contests are included, the two candidates are about even. If Florida and Michigan are included and the four caucus states aren't, then Clinton is slightly ahead.

She uses this count to claim the current popular-vote lead.

In a new poll published by the Gallup organization yesterday, Obama leads Clinton 55 percent to 39 percent among Democrats nationally. Other surveys give Obama a narrower lead.

The Votes Today And Still to Come


51 pledged delegates at stake; final polls close at 7 p.m.


52 pledged delegates at stake;

last polls at 11 p.m. Philadelphia time. A substantial amount of voting there already has occurred by mail ballot. Those yet to vote may drop off their ballots today at county elections offices or other designated drop-off sites before polling closes.

Forthcoming contests:

June 1: Puerto Rico

(55 pledged delegates); June 3: Montana

(16 pledged delegates) and South Dakota

(15 pledged delegates).