Clinton takes early lead in California Democratic primary |

Clinton takes early lead in California Democratic primary

Laura Kurtzman, Associated Press Writer
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., hugs her daughter, Chelsea at her Super Tuesday primary night rally in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

LOS ANGELES (AP) ” Hillary Rodham Clinton was leading Barack Obama in California’s Democratic presidential primary Tuesday, according to very early returns.

Clinton had 53 percent to just under 35 percent for Obama with 2 percent of precincts reporting.

Voter exit polls by The Associated Press showed Clinton receiving strong support from women and Hispanics and voters in the San Francisco Bay area.

California voters displayed a marked gender gap, with women favoring Clinton and men leaning toward Obama, according to the surveys.

More than 6 in 10 Hispanics favored Clinton in the exit survey, while nearly 8 in 10 black voters favored Obama. Whites leaned toward Obama, according to the polls.

Clinton had a built-in advantage because of her husband’s presidency and she maintained a wide lead in pre-election polls until the final week of the race.

Hispanic voters, in particular, have fond memories of Bill Clinton. Many, such as Erendida Vargas, cast their first ballots during his eight years as president.

Vargas, a 32-year-old housekeeper from Los Angeles, said gender politics also played a role in her decision to vote again for a Clinton.

“She’s great, and she is going to be the first woman president,” Vargas said. “Everything men do, we can do it, too, so we have to show everybody we can do it, too.”

Other voters said they chose Clinton over Obama because they thought she was better prepared to become president.

“I believe she’s going in with wide eyes,” said John Freiman, 42, of Oakland. “She understands the problems and how to solve them.”

But James Gottfurcht, a 60-year-old psychologist from Los Angeles, said Obama seemed like the better leader.

“I experience him as genuine and natural,” he said. “Whereas, Hillary I see as slick and polished, more of a politician and part of the establishment.”

He said was also skeptical about having Bill Clinton back in the White House.

Clinton and Obama waged the liveliest race California has seen in 40 years for the Democratic nomination for president.

Each staked a claim to making history: she as the first woman and he as the first black man to become the party’s nominee.

Since the Democrats use a proportional system, both candidates were likely to walk away with a large share of the state’s 370 pledged delegates, regardless of who won the popular vote.

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