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Obama the choice of Democrats in Indonesia

  • Story Highlights
  • Seventy-five of nearly 100 Americans living in Indonesia choose Barack Obama
  • Vote counts are preliminary, require verification, election official says
  • Voting at Jakarta hotel was first in-person casting of ballots in U.S. races
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From Saeed Ahmed
CNN
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(CNN) -- Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won the first battle of the Super Tuesday showdown when Democratic Party voters in Indonesia -- where Obama spent four years of his childhood -- picked him over Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Seventy five percent of the nearly 100 votes cast by expatriate Americans a minute after midnight Indonesia time (12 p.m. Monday EST) went to Obama. The rest were cast in favor of Clinton, said Arian Ardie, country committee chair for Democrats Abroad.

Ardie said he was not permitted to disclose the exact number of votes cast, and added that the results were preliminary and still need formal verification.

Ardie said that Obama's time in Indonesia was part of his appeal among expatriate voters in the southeast Asian country.

"I think it factored in to the extent they saw someone with strong international experience," he said. "But I don't think it was the primary factor."

The voting at a hotel in Indonesia's capital city of Jakarta was the first in-person casting of ballots in a coast-to-coast contest for Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls Tuesday. Voters will go to the polls in 24 states and American Samoa.

Some 6 million Americans living abroad are eligible to vote in U.S. elections, The Associated Press reported, but only a fraction have done so in the past.

Ardie said Democrats in Indonesia wanted to create the same kind of buzz that the New Hampshire hamlet of Dixville Notch generated when it kicked off the presidential primaries on January 8.

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The midnight voting in the hamlet of about 75 people near the Canadian border was closely watched by the media and the campaigns.

There too, Obama won -- garnering seven of 10 votes cast. Clinton won none.

More than four-fifths of the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination are at stake Tuesday in what amounts to a national primary.

The delegates will in turn choose the party's presidential candidate at their August convention.

For the millions of Americans living around the world, Democrats Abroad is the official Democratic Party organization. It is recognized as a "state" party by the Democratic National Committee. It will send 22 delegates to the convention at which time they will have a combined 11 votes. Video Watch Americans living abroad uniting for party politics »

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Ardie said the excitement for the presidential elections this go-round was tremendous. The country committee tripled its membership in the last six months and doubled it in the last two, he said. He would not say how many party members are registered but placed the number in the hundreds.

"We have people who are first-time voters. We have people who were out of the voting process for many years," he said. . Prior to the vote, Democrats who had gathered at the central Jakarta hotel heard from both campaigns.

Gen. Wesley Clark spoke on behalf of Clinton. "He had a very comprehensive and strong message in support of Hillary Clinton based upon his time he first met her in Arkansas," Ardie said.

Obama's sister Maya Soetoro-Ng "had a more personal description of her brother," Ardie said.

She talked about why he would make a great president and "tied it back to some of his multi-cultural experiences while growing up in Indonesia."

Obama lived in Indonesia as a child with his mother and step-father. In his two books -- "Dreams From My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope" -- Obama noted that he spent two years in a Muslim school and another two years in a Catholic school while living in Indonesia from age 6 to 10, starting in 1967.

At a campaign stop in November, Obama told an Iowa audience that "probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact that I spent four years living overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia."

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Obama said his time there, and the fact that his father was from Kenya, gave him the knowledge "of how ordinary people in these other countries live."

Later, Obama said the point he was trying to make in Iowa is that his time overseas "gives me some judgment and perspective around what other people think about America and how they might react or respond when we make some of the decisions that we make." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

All About IndonesiaBarack ObamaHillary ClintonU.S. Politics

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