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Democratic Primaries Nearing an End


Democrats in the United States cast their final ballots this week in primary elections for the party's presidential nomination. Senator Hillary Clinton has won a commanding victory in the Democratic presidential primary election held in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico Sunday. Despite Clinton's victory, party frontrunner Obama has drawn close to claiming the party's presidential nomination. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports party officials say they want the hard-fought race to come to an end so the process of unifying Democrats behind one candidate can begin.

Months after the first primaries and caucuses were held in the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire, the long primary process is coming to an end with early summer contests in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota.

At this point, Illinois Senator Barack Obama has an overall lead in delegates pledged to vote for him at the national party convention in August.

But New York Senator Hillary Clinton has won more votes overall - with primary victories in such populous states as California and Texas.

Both are appealing to a pool of convention delegates that are not determined by primary or caucus results and are free to vote as they choose at the party convention. They are likely to provide the winning edge.

Party Chairman Howard Dean is urging these so-called super delegates to make up their minds as quickly as possible.

He appeared on the ABC television broadcast This Week.

"This needs to end in the month of June," said Dean. "We do not want to go to the convention and have a big fight at the convention and lose the presidency."

Dean acknowledges the nomination process has created deep divisions in the party, and says Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will have to come together to heal the wounds.

"They know that," he said. "These are two real professional folks who have been around a long time. And I think they value their country more than their party and that is the most important thing."

He spoke one day after Democratic Party officials announced an agreement aimed at resolving a dispute over primary election votes in two key states: Florida and Michigan.

Both stood to lose all their convention delegates because they defied party rules by holding their primaries too early.

In a compromise, party officials agreed to include delegates from both states, but to give each delegate only half a vote.

The Clinton campaign - which won both states - took strong issue with the allocation of delegates. In a number of Sunday television interviews, campaign officials were defiant, and called the decision unfair.

Campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe said the battle for the nomination will go on until either candidate gets a majority of the convention delegates.

"We are not going anywhere until someone has the magic number to become the nominee of the party," he said.

Top Obama supporters say they do not expect an imminent end to the campaign. But they do say they have the momentum, and they expect more super delegates to fall into their column in the coming days.

Former Congressman David Bonior says the trend is moving in Senator Obama's direction. And he indicates the Obama campaign is ready to start mending fences with Senator Clinton and look ahead to the general election campaign against the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain.

"This has been a difficult, long arduous race for all the candidates involved," said Bonior. "And she has fought with a lot of courage and Senator Clinton has broken some barriers here, important barriers. And I think it is important for people to understand that and they need to be respected for that, for the efforts they have made."

Bonior appeared on the Fox News Sunday television program.

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