Voters in the southern state of Mississippi are going to the polls in that state's Democratic Party presidential primary.  Opinion polls put Senator Barack Obama in first place, but, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, Senator Hillary Clinton is likely to almost evenly split the state's 33 delegates.

More than half of Mississippi's Democratic voters are African-Americans, a segment of the voting population that has favored Barack Obama in past contests and they are expected to help him win Tuesday's primary as well.  Obama, whose father was from Kenya and whose mother was white, is likely to win more than half the votes, but Hillary Clinton will take away almost as many delegates.

In Democratic contests the delegates are divided proportionally according the number of votes won by each candidate.  Clinton is behind Obama by about 100 delegates at this point, but she is counting on a big win in Pennsylvania, which holds its primary on April 22.  Polls show she has an advantage there.

Mississippi is a poor state and often lands at or near the bottom of national lists on such matters as rural poverty, educational achievement and school financing.  Issue of concern for voters include the economy, health care, job creation and the war in Iraq.

On the eve of the Mississippi primary, as both candidates appeared around the state, a controversy flared over Clinton remarks that seemed to suggest she would be willing to name Obama as her running mate.

"I have had people say to me, 'I wish I could vote for both of you.'  Well, that might be possible some day," she said.

Obama responded by rejecting the notion that he would accept the second-place spot on the ticket with Clinton.

"I do not know how somebody who is in second place is offering the vice presidency to someone who is in first place," he said.

Obama is also expressing irritation over assertions by Clinton that he is not experienced enough to take on the job of commander in chief.  He questioned how Clinton could see him as a potential vice presidential candidate if she does not believe he is ready for such responsibility.

Democratic leaders are concerned that such rhetorical skirmishes between the two candidates may help Republicans by giving them ideas on how to attack whichever of the two wins the Democratic nomination.  Senator John McCain, who has clinched the Republican nomination, has been able to concentrate on building his team and financial resources for the November election, while the Democrats still struggle to finalize their selection process.