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McCain takes on Obama in US presidential race

McCain takes on Obama in US presidential race

Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain locked horns over Iraq terrorism in a showdown that suggested the two consider each other likely rivals in the general election, even though the Democratic contest remains unresolved.
Left out of the long-distance exchange was Obama's Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who played to voter concerns about the economy as she campaigned in industrial Ohio, one of two contests next week she must win for the continued viability of her once-powerful candidacy.
McCain's mockery of Obama over comments about al-Qaida in Iraq continued the theme that Obama is naive on foreign policy. Clinton has used the same tack as she rallies to halt her rival's momentum going into the March 4 races in delegate-rich Texas and Ohio.
Obama has won 11 straight primaries and has been increasingly gathering a lead in delegates. Rhode Island and Vermont also have contests on Tuesday.
McCain criticized Obama for saying in Tuesday night's Democratic debate that, after U.S. troops were withdrawn, as president he would act "if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq."
"I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq. It's called `al-Qaida in Iraq,'" McCain told a crowd in Tyler, Texas, drawing laughter at Obama's expense.
Obama quickly answered back while campaigning in Ohio: "I have some news for John McCain," he said. "There was no such thing as al-Qaida in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq. ... They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11 and that would be al-Qaida in Afghanistan, that is stronger now than at any time since 2001."
Obama said he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq to concentrate on rooting out al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
McCain said he had not watched Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate but was told of Obama's response when asked if as president he would reserve the right to send U.S. troops back into Iraq to quell an insurrection or civil war.
Obama did not say whether he would send troops but responded: "As commander in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests. And if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad."
On Wednesday, Obama expanded slightly that he "would always reserve the right to go in and strike al-Qaida if they were in Iraq" without detailing what kind of strike that might be _ air, ground or both.
The five-year-old Iraq conflict has emerged as a fault line in the general election, and throughout the primary season McCain has repeatedly attacked Obama and Clinton for saying they would withdraw the troops.
Clinton is counting on Ohio and Texas to keep her afloat, and even some of her supporters concede she must win in both states to keep her bid alive.
She emphasized the struggling industrial economy throughout the upper Midwest as she swung through Ohio.
"Obviously, the economy is the No. 1 issue in the country, and it's unbelievably important here in Ohio," said Clinton. "I think, absent any intervening circumstances, the economy will be the domestic driver with all the related issues like health care and energy costs and home foreclosures."
"What's important is we have a lot of people yet to vote," said Clinton, emphasizing that she had no intention of quitting the race.
But, in a further setback for her, Democratic congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis dropped his support for her in favor Obama's campaign to be the first black U.S. president. He also is a superdelegate who gets a vote at this summer's national convention in Denver.
Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Atlanta, is the most prominent black leader to defect from Clinton's campaign in the face of near-majority black support for Obama in recent voting. Obama also picked up an endorsement from Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.
Obama showed further signs of his momentum on Wednesday, closing in on Clinton's once big lead in Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
Clinton led in this survey by 52 percent to 36 percent just two weeks ago. The latest poll indicates that her lead is down to 6 points, 49 percent to 43 percent. The primary is not until April 22, giving him plenty of time to make up the difference.
The poll was conducted from Feb. 21-25 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Obama currently has 1,372 delegates to Clinton's 1,274. A total of 2,025 are needed to secure the Democratic nomination at the party's convention in late August in Denver.
A total of 370 delegates are at stake in next week's votes.
Clinton's supporters had hoped that Tuesday's debate would shift the momentum in the race. But it seemed unlikely to provide a lift to Clinton's campaign. Neither candidate seemed to knock the other off stride.
The Republican race is considered settled in favor of McCain, a senator and former Vietnam prisoner of war. He has a total of 1,013 of the 1,191 delegates needed to clinch the nomination at the Republican convention in September in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, trails with 257 delegates.


Updated : 2021-03-06 17:08 GMT+08:00