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McCain takes on Obama in US presidential race

McCain takes on Obama in US presidential race

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain sparred over terrorism in Iraq in a prelude to a possible general election fight between the two candidates. Hillary Rodham Clinton, going into two must-win contests next week, sought Thursday to win over voters with a focus on childhood hunger and the struggling U.S. economy.
Clinton, whose once-powerful candidacy was dealt blows after losing 11 straight nominating contests, needs to win contests next Tuesday in Texas and Ohio. She was to unveil on Thursday proposals aimed at improving childhood nutrition and cutting by half the 12 million youngsters living in poverty in the U.S. over the next 12 years.
Clinton has argued that, unlike Obama _ a first-term senator _ she has the experience to fix America's various woes, from poverty and job losses to foreign policy challenges.
Obama has responded by accusing Clinton of being a Washington insider while arguing that Americans need change _ the theme of his campaign.
The mockery Obama endured Wednesday from McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, underscored that the two consider each other likely general election rivals, even though the Democratic contest remains unresolved.
McCain criticized Obama for saying in Tuesday night's Democratic debate that, after U.S. troops were withdrawn, as president he would act "if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq."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.
Obama quickly answered back while campaigning in Ohio, saying the group did not exist in Iraq until President George W. Bush and McCain "decided to invade Iraq." He said he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq to concentrate on rooting out al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama later said he would "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.
But the economy, at a time when Americans worry about a recession, has been the biggest issue in the race overall and especially in the industrial state of Ohio.
The former first lady is counting on that state and Texas to keep her afloat, and even some of her supporters concede she must win in both state to keep her bid alive.
The two states, along with smaller races in Rhode Island and Vermont offer a total of 370 delegates for the Democrats.
On Thursday, she was to spell out her childhood nutrition and poverty proposal in speech at Ohio University's child care development center.
The package of proposals includes a "comprehensive" early education initiative that starts with nurses' visits for pregnant women and calls for universal nursery school programs. It also calls for stronger programs aimed at cutting teen pregnancy as well as toughening child support enforcement programs to "support responsible fatherhood," according to background documents provided to The Associated Press that outline the proposals.
The focus on children living in poverty would bolster minority children, Clinton says, as roughly one-third of black children living in poverty and 28 percent of Hispanic youngsters living in poor households. That compares with the roughly 10 percent of white children in poverty, she says.
"While we celebrate America as a place where an individual's circumstances at birth should not determine his or her life chances, the fact is that economic mobility is now in decline in America," Clinton's background documents say. "Children born in poverty are likely to live in poverty their whole lives."
Clinton aides said the new programs would carry an annual cost of $5 billion (euro3.3 billion) to $6 billion (euro4 billion). She would cover the cost by toughening enforcement to collect taxes currently owed but not paid.
Clinton suffered another setback Wednesday as Democratic congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis dropped his support for her in favor Obama. 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 showed further signs of his momentum on Wednesday, closing in on Clinton's once big lead in Pennsylvania, which votes on April 22, 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 1,375 delegates to Clinton's 1,277. 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.
The Republican race is considered settled in favor of McCain, a senator and former Vietnam prisoner of war. He has a total of 1,014 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.
On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, announced in a New York Times opinion piece that he would not run for president, after two years of playing coy about his presidential ambitions.


Updated : 2021-05-14 14:40 GMT+08:00