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Economic concerns key in Obama's North Carolina win

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: With 78% of precincts reporting, Obama leads Clinton 56% to 42%
  • Exit polls: Obama takes 91% of black vote; Clinton, 59% of white vote
  • State voted Tuesday in contest between Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton
  • In exit polling, 50% say Wright flap not important, 48% say it is
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RALEIGH, North Carolina (CNN) -- An overwhelming majority of North Carolina Democrats voting for president on Tuesday said they've been hurt by what they're calling a recession -- although they were split almost evenly on whether the recent controversy over Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor was important.

Support from those voters was key to Obama winning in North Carolina, as CNN is projecting based on exit polling and early election returns.

North Carolina and Indiana voted Tuesday in the continually close contest between Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

In North Carolina, 81 percent of voters queried in CNN exit polling said the economic recession has affected them -- with 46 percent saying they have been affected "a great deal." Fifty-two percent of the poll's 1,717 respondents said they think Obama is better suited to improve the economy, compared with 42 percent who favored Clinton.

Among voters who said they have been affected by the economy, Obama took 55 percent of the vote, compared with 41 percent for Clinton.

"We believe in personal responsibility and self-reliance," Obama said at a rally of supporters in Raleigh on Tuesday night. "But we also believe that we have a larger responsibility to one another as Americans that America is the place where you can make it if you try -- that no matter how much money you start with or where you come from or who your parents are, opportunity is yours if you're willing to reach for it and work for it."

With 78 percent of precincts reporting, Obama led Clinton in North Carolina by 14 percentage points -- 56 percent to 42 percent. Video Watch Obama thank North Carolinians »

Obama had been counting on a strong showing in North Carolina, where he was expected to poll well among constituencies including black voters -- which made up 33 percent of the vote in early exit polls -- and college students in cities like Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham.

Obama took an overwhelming 91 percent of the black vote in North Carolina, according to exit polls, with Clinton taking only six percent. Clinton took 59 percent of the white vote, compared with 36 percent for Obama, according to the polls. Video Watch a breakdown of North Carolina, Indiana demographics and strategies »

But Clinton campaigned hard in the state, in hopes of an upset win that, coupled with a win in Indiana, where she was favored, could have dramatically turned the tide in a race that remains close. Obama holds the lead in states won, pledged delegates and total votes.

"There are those who were saying that North Carolina would be a game-changer in this election," Obama said. "But today, what North Carolina decided is that the only game that needs changing is the one in Washington, D.C."

In North Carolina, Richard McIntyre, communications director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said there were reports of a Lee County polling place that was moved without people being redirected from the old site to the new one.

He also said the group heard several reports of more common election-day problems, such as polling places running out of ballots, registration problems and machines that didn't work. He also said there was a report of a recorded telephone message telling people that election day had been changed.

Gary Bartlett, North Carolina's director of elections, said his office received a single phone call saying there were signs missing at the Lee County polling place. He said that by the time an elections official investigated, the appropriate signs were posted.

He said he had no information about any other problems. Video Watch North Carolina voters go to the polls »

In other exit polling, voters in North Carolina were split almost evenly on whether the recent controversy over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- Obama's former pastor -- was important to their vote.

In all, 50 percent of respondents said the flap was not important, while 48 percent said that it was.

Fiery snippets of Wright's sermons -- in which, among other things, he appears to curse America for historical events like the World War II atomic bombing of Japan -- circulated on the Internet and were aired relentlessly by media outlets for weeks.


Obama initially denounced the comments while refusing to denounce Wright himself. But after Wright made a handful of nationally televised media appearances, during which he claimed attacks on him were attacks on the entire black church and said Obama's distancing himself was merely politics, Obama made comments more strongly severing ties with Wright.

"Because of you, we have seen that it's possible to overcome the politics of division and the politics of distraction," Obama said Tuesday night. "That it's possible to overcome the same old negative attacks that are always about scoring points and never about solving our problems."

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