U.S. Senator Barack Obama has taken a major step toward securing the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, with a convincing win in the North Carolina primary and a strong showing in Indiana.
The Illinois senator trounced New York Senator Hillary Clinton in North Carolina Tuesday by a wide margin (56-percent to 42-percent), a win that gives him a large chunk of the state's 115 pledged delegates. The win represented a major turnaround for Obama's campaign, which had been overshadowed for several days by the controversy over his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
Speaking in Raleigh, Obama told supporters his campaign was "our moment and our time to change America," and called for unity within the Democratic party.
Meanwhile, Clinton won Indiana by a much narrower margin (51-percent to 49-percent). She vowed to continue her quest for the nomination during a late-night rally in Indianapolis.
But the former first lady also suggested she would support Obama if he were the Democratic nominee, saying the stakes were too high to allow the Republicans to retain the White House.
Tuesday's results helped Obama increase his lead in the number of pledged delegates needed to secure the party nomination. A combined 187 delegates were at stake in the North Carolina and Indiana contests, and will be allotted according to vote results.
Clinton says she will continue her campaign in the West Virginia and Kentucky, the next states on the Democratic primary campaign. But many political observers say she has little chance of overtaking Obama in the pledged delegate count by June third, when last primaries will be held.
Her campaign still hopes to seat delegates from the large states of Florida and Michigan at the Democratic convention in August. Clinton won both primaries, but the national party disallowed the results, because they violated the rules on when they were supposed to be held.
Both candidates are in need of the support of superdelegates in order to win the nomination. Superdelegates -- party leaders and elected officials -- are free to vote as they please for the Democratic presidential nominee.