Obama On Top After NC Win, Hillary’s “Squeaker”

Two points.

That’s Hillary Clinton‘s margin of victory in Indiana, where pundits, pollsters and press thought the Senator would surely trounce Barack Obama for the Democratic primary.

Obama, however, surprised us all by securing a projected 49% of the vote, while soaring ahead in North Carolina, where he took a whopping – and telling – 56% of the vote. Clinton, meanwhile, only grabbed 42% of the Tar Heel State, giving Obama a fourteen point margin of victory.

And a considerable delegate boost: at least ninety-four.

So, where do the Democratic presidential candidates go from here? Well, the next primaries, of course, but both candidates struck a particularly conciliatory tone during their respective “victory” speeches last night.

Speaking in North Carolina, Obama opened first by highlighting the state’s deciding factor in the election, but then made sure to congratulate Senator Clinton on her Indiana win. Clinton followed a similar patten, using Obama’s words against him to paint herself as a winning underdog, but then extended a bit of an olive branch:

Not too long ago, my opponent made a prediction. He said I would probably win Pennsylvania. He would win North Carolina, and Indiana would be the tie-breaker. Well, tonight we’ve come from behind, we’ve broken the tie, and thanks to you, it’s full speed on to the White House.

I want to commend Senator Obama and his supporters on their win in North Carolina. We are, in many ways, on the same journey. It’s a journey begun long before we were born. It is a journey by men and women who have been on a mission to perfect our union, who marched and protested, who risked everything they had to build an America that embraces us all.

Clinton may have kept herself in the spotlight, but both candidates are sending a clear message: we’re in this together. Take, for example, this excerpt from Obama’s speech:

This fall, we intend to march forward as one Democratic Party, united by a common vision for this country. Because we all agree that at this defining moment in history – a moment when we’re facing two wars, an economy in turmoil, a planet in peril – we can’t afford to give John McCain the chance to serve out George Bush’s third term. We need change in America.

Of course such party hat-tipping is nothing new in national politics, but the tones struck last night were more urgent. The party has been torn asunder over the past few weeks, and Clinton and Obama are doing their best to pull people together. This has some people – or, more than some people – speculating that people may get the mythical dream ticket.

It’s unclear who will lead that mythical campaign. Obama has more delegates at the moment with 1840 total, including superdelegates, while Clinton’s lagging with a total of 1684. Mrs. Clinton does, however, have more name recognition, a strong showing among blue-collar and many working class whites, which will be essential in beating McCain.

Our prediction: Obama on top with the Clintons (yes, Bill, too!) to the left and right. That is, of course, if the Clintons can put their history aside and look toward the party’s future.