Illinois Senator Barack Obama claimed victory in the North Carolina Democratic primary results yesterday.

Just after voting polls closed in the state, CNN project Obama as the winner of the contest based on exit polls.

Obama had been expected to take the win in North Carolina, leading over Hillary Clinton across the board in pre-voting polls by a strong margin.

With 46 percent of precincts reporting in, Obama led Clinton by 57 percent to 41 percent of the vote.

One percent of voters stated no preference for either candidate.

Both Democratic presidential hopefuls hunkered down in the state making last-minute campaign stops.

Clinton and former President Bill Clinton made eleventh-hour pushes at four stops throughout North Carolina while Obama and his wife Michelle planned his election night party at a coliseum at North Carolina State University.

A modern-day record primary turnout is expected in the state, with more than half of registered Democrats casting a ballot, Gary Bartlett, director of the State Board of Elections, told the Associated Press.  

He predicted GOP turnout would be fewer than 30 percent. Of the 5.8 million registered voters in the state, turnout should exceed 2 million, he said.

In the Republican primary, presidential nominee John McCain led over Mike Huckabee by 74 percent to 12 percent with less than one percent of precincts reporting. Ron Paul followed in third with 8 percent, with 4 percent of voters stating no preference for any candidate.

Exit polls reflect the growing rift within the Democratic party.

In both North Carolina and Indiana, polls showed that 50% or more of those who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary would either vote for John McCain or would not vote at all in November if Barack Obama was to become the Democrat presidential nominee.    

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