Clinton aide predicts race will be over by June

WASHINGTON Thu May 8, 2008 9:56am EDT

1 of 3. US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks during a campaign stop in High Point, North Carolina May 5, 2008.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman said on Thursday he believes the Democrats will have a presidential nominee in June and that if it is not Clinton, she will campaign for rival Barack Obama.

Clinton is given little chance of winning the nomination but so far is rejecting calls by some prominent Democrats to withdraw from the race and cede the field to Obama, a first-term Illinois senator who crushed Clinton in North Carolina on Tuesday and almost defeated her in Indiana.

The New York senator and former first lady, a fixture in American politics for the past 16 years, is leading the polls in the next state to vote, West Virginia, which holds its contest on Tuesday.

"She can win the states we need to win in the general election. Why should Hillary Clinton, until there is a nominee with the number of necessary delegates, why should she get out?" Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe asked on NBC's "Today" show.

After Tuesday's voting in West Virginia, which Clinton is expected to win, the remaining contests are Kentucky and Oregon on May 20, Puerto Rico on June 1 and Montana and South Dakota on June 3. Superdelegates, those party leaders who can vote for whichever candidate they want, will likely move quickly to endorse the winning candidate.

"It'll be over early June," McAuliffe said. "We've all said we'll be together at the end. If Hillary doesn't win, Hillary, (former) President (Bill) Clinton, myself, we'll be over there helping Senator Obama. And, likewise, Senator Obama will come together to help Hillary if she's the nominee."

Democratic leaders have expressed fears that the closely fought contest could drag on until the Democrats hold their convention to nominate a candidate in late August in Denver.

(Reporting by David Alexander, writing by Steve Holland, editing by Lori Santos)

(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)

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