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Obama, Clinton Campaigns Clash Over Race Comments

Senator Barack Obama scored another decisive primary victory Tuesday, winning the southern state of Mississippi by more than 20 percentage points over Senator Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Senator Obama has also reacted to comments by a prominent Clinton supporter, who alleged that Obama has only come so far in the race as he has because he is a black man. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Tuesday's win was the second in four days for Senator Obama, who also won big in Saturday's Wyoming caucuses. Nearly complete returns from Mississippi showed Obama with 61 percent of the vote and Clinton with 37 percent. Exit polls in Mississippi indicate that more than nine-in-10 African Americans voted for Senator Obama, while seven-in-10 white voters backed Senator Clinton.

The issue of race surfaced again, triggered by remarks made last week by Geraldine Ferraro, who in 1984 became the first woman candidate for vice president on a major party ticket.

Ferraro, a Clinton fundraiser and supporter, told a California newspaper that Obama would not be in this position in the contest "if he were a white man, or if he were a woman of any color". She said the country is "caught up in the concept."

Senator Obama called Ferraro's comments "patently absurd" and "divisive." He spoke to ABC News' morning television show.

"I think that if anybody was looking for the quickest path to the presidency, they would not say 'I want to be an African-American man named Barack Obama.' I do not think that is in the handbook for running for president," he said.

Asked if the campaign should sever its ties to Ms. Ferraro, Senator Obama said that was up to Senator Clinton, but he said he had taken action in similar cases.

"When some of my surrogates have made statements that I do not think were appropriate, they left the campaign," Obama said. "I think that we have to set a tone in the Democratic Party that projects bringing the country together, unifying the country. I think that is what we are about. And I respect Geraldine Ferraro, she is a trailblazer, and was an inspiration for a lot of people, including myself when she ran."

Former congresswoman Ferraro appeared on the same ABC news program and said she is "absolutely not sorry" about her remarks.

"My comments have been taken so out of context and have been spun by the Obama campaign as racist, that you know, it is doing precisely what they do not want done," she said. "It is going into the Democratic Party and dividing us even more."

Ferraro said she was commenting on the historic nature of Obama's candidacy, saying that in 1984, if her name had been "Gerald Ferraro" instead of "Geraldine Ferraro" she would not have been chosen as a vice presidential candidate.

Clinton and Obama are seeking to make history, she as the first woman and he as the first African American to be elected U.S. president.

Their campaigns have a six-week lull in primary contests until Pennsylvania votes on April 22.