Obama wins, Hucakbee leads in Louisiana

Published 12:56 am Sunday, February 10, 2008

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential primary in Louisiana on Saturday, but will share in the state’s delegates for the party’s nomination with Hillary Clinton.

The state’s 67 Democratic delegates will be awarded mainly on the proportion of vote received by the candidates — making it unlikely the delegates awarded to each would be clear Saturday night.

Danny Ford, executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party, said he wasn’t surprised by the results because Obama, the Illinois senator, put more energy into capturing Louisiana than Clinton, the former first lady.

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‘‘Obama had a field staff here in the state, and he’s been running commercials for a few weeks. He played here,’’ Ford said. Of the Clinton campaign, Ford said, ‘‘They tried to mount an effort, but the Obama campaign’s really been working the state harder.’’

Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee led John McCain in Louisiana’s Republican contest, with 20 delegates at stake in a competition considered mainly a beauty contest because McCain effectively sealed the Republican presidential nomination earlier this week.

Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, was leading with 45 percent of the vote to McCain’s 41 percent, with 81 percent of precincts reporting.

However, the 20 Republican delegates only are committed if a GOP candidate gets 50 percent or more of the primary vote. Another 27 delegates on the Republican side aren’t committed no matter the outcome of the primary election.

The leading Republican contenders were absent on Louisiana’s political scene, but the Democrats — locked in a tight competition — gave some attention to the state.

Obama spoke in New Orleans on Thursday about hurricane recovery needs and mounted a TV and radio ad campaign.

Former President Bill Clinton made a Friday swing through the state to stump for his wife, whose campaign ran radio ads around Louisiana.

Black voters, who make up 45 percent of the state’s Democratic voters, seemed to favor Obama, helping boost the candidate’s votes, according to exit polls.

Larry Hammond, 57, a black retired Postal Service manager, said he decided to vote for Obama a few weeks ago after a debate in which Obama described his stands on Iraq and the military.

‘‘He solidified it the other day when he talked about Louisiana needing a 5-year plan for levee protection,’’ said Hammond, who lives in New Orleans, which is still struggling to recover from the damage of Katrina nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

Hammond said gender wasn’t an important factor for him, but race was.

‘‘This would be the second opportunity for an African American to be brought before the convention, and one of the first where they’re dead even. That means our issues will have to be dealt with at that level,’’ he said.

Gregory Espinal, a 29-year-old Hispanic barber, said he voted for Clinton after watching her influence on politics when her husband was president. He said leadership and personal qualities weighed more than issues in his vote.

Secretary of State Jay Dardenne predicted between 12 percent and 15 percent of Louisiana’s 2.8 million voters would cast ballots, according to spokesman Jacques Berry. The election cost the state $5 million.

Only Republicans and Democrats could vote in the primary, leaving out 22 percent of voters who aren’t affiliated with either party.

Obama’s campaign said it received complaints from Democrats around Louisiana that they showed up to vote but weren’t allowed to because their party affiliation had been changed to independent or no party.

Berry said elections’ officials believe some people who have voted for Democrats for years likely didn’t realize they had registered as independents or no party years ago because Louisiana’s elections don’t typically involve closed party primaries.

‘‘That’s what happened to a lot of people today based on phone calls,’’ Berry said. ‘‘We don’t switch anybody’s parties. That’s certainly not the case.’’