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Clinton campaign works to put pressure on front-runner Obama ahead of key races Tuesday

Clinton campaign works to put pressure on front-runner Obama ahead of key races Tuesday

Analysts and even supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton have said she needs to win two big states next week to keep her presidential campaign afloat. But her advisers are seeking to put the burden on front-runner Barack Obama, saying if he doesn't sweep all four states Tuesday, it would show Democrats are having second thoughts about him.
Obama's string of 11 victories since the Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" contests has raised questions about the viability of Clinton's candidacy. As recently as Feb. 20, even former President Bill Clinton pinned his wife's hopes on Ohio, in the Midwest, and Texas, in the South.
"If she wins in Texas and Ohio, I think she'll be the nominee," the former president told a Beaumont, Texas, audience. "If you don't deliver for her, I don't think she can be."
But in an e-mail and conference call to reporters Friday, Clinton's campaign laid the groundwork to keep her campaign alive if the results are disappointing Tuesday in the four states, which also include Rhode Island and Vermont.
Obama has been leading the former first lady in the popular vote, committed delegates and fundraising. In Friday's conference call, senior Clinton strategist Howard Wolfson seized on those facts to reshape expectations about the Democratic contest.
"They are outspending us at least two to one in Ohio and Texas," Wolfson said. "If they are unable to win these states, it sends a very clear signal that Democrats want this campaign to continue. Obama has every advantage going into this election. If Senator Obama is in fact the de facto nominee, he ought to win all four."
A loss for Obama in even one of the four states Tuesday would indicate Democrats have developed a case of "buyer's remorse," Wolfson said. "It would show that Senator Obama is having trouble closing the deal with Democrats."
However, Bill Clinton's assertion that his wife must win both Texas and Ohio to keep her campaign alive reflects a widely held view among political analysts.
Polls now give her a modest lead in Ohio and show Texas is a toss-up; earlier she had large leads in both states.
The New York senator planned to remain in Texas on Saturday a day after she campaigned with a backdrop of military leaders in a state which has a large number of military bases.
Clinton then plans to spend Sunday rumbling across Ohio and to campaign there again Monday morning. Clinton will then return to Texas for a televised town hall meeting, and she's purchased airtime to broadcast it across the state.
Obama had a rally scheduled Saturday in Rhode Island. The Illinois senator has announced he'll spend Tuesday night in Texas, one of the biggest prizes of the campaign. A win in Texas would allow Obama to counter the Clinton campaign's argument that although he's won more states, she's carried the big states like California, New York and New Jersey.
On Friday the candidates were tussling over a stark new Clinton ad, in which she is portrayed as the leader voters want on the phone when a crisis occurs in the middle of the night, drawing criticism from Obama that she is trying to scare the American public.
Clinton's commercial features images of sleeping children and suggests that voters would be safer with her in charge when a crisis happens "when your children are safe and asleep." The ad was designed to appeal to women voters _ a core bloc Clinton needs in order to salvage her faltering campaign in the March 4 races in Texas and Ohio.
In a lightning response, Obama parodied her ad with one of his own _ the same ominously ringing phone, the sleeping children, the mood lighting, even the same introduction.
The Obama ad intones: "In a dangerous world, it's judgment that matters."
Obama argued that when Clinton had her "red phone moment," as he put it in a speech earlier in the day, she voted in the Senate for the war in Iraq, while he stood against the war from the start.
Clinton's foreboding ad prompted an immediate denunciation from Obama, who said it is meant to scare people. Clinton later told a rally, "I don't think Texans scare very easily."
Clinton referred to Obama's new commercial during a rally in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday night, noting that he's neglecting real duties.
"He was given an important responsibility in the Senate to chair a committee with responsibility for NATO," said Clinton. "He didn't hold one substantive meeting."
Clinton, a second-term senator, is aiming to become the first woman president, casting herself as the candidate with the years of service needed to take command on her first day in the White House. Obama, a first-term senator who hopes to be the first black U.S. president, is seeking to chip away at those arguments by suggesting he would have superior judgment.
A Fox News poll released Friday showed Obama moving into a narrow lead of 48 percent to Clinton's 45 percent in Texas, but that fell within the margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll, conducted Feb. 26-28, showed Obama with a large edge among white men, blacks and younger voters, while Clinton leads among women, Hispanics and the oldest voters.
But the Fox survey found Clinton holding on to her narrowing lead in Ohio with 46 percent to Obama's 38 percent. Clinton was leading among women, whites, less educated and lower earning voters, and people over 45, while cutting into Obama's usual large margin among men and the college-educated.
Tuesday's four contests offer a total of 370 delegates.
Obama has 1,383 delegates to Clinton's 1,276. A total of 2,025 are needed to secure the Democratic nomination at the party's convention in late August.
Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain and even President George W. Bush have seized on Obama's lack of experience, trying to portray him as a smooth talker who is naive about international affairs. On Friday, McCain took on both Democrats, saying Obama and Clinton's expressed desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement would jeopardize crucial military support from Canada.
But McCain faced criticism after he accepted the endorsement of a prominent Texas televangelist, John Hagee, who Democrats say peddles anti-Catholic and other intolerant speech.
McCain refused to renounce the endorsement, but instead issued a statement Friday saying he had unspecified disagreements with the San Antonio megachurch leader.
"However, in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee's views, which I obviously do not," McCain said in the statement.
His campaign issued the statement after two days of criticism from the Democratic National Committee, the Catholic League and Catholics United.
Democrats quoted Hagee as saying the Catholic Church conspired with Nazis against the Jews and that Hurricane Katrina was God's retribution for homosexual sin.
McCain has had trouble rallying support among the key Republican constituency of conservative Christians especially in southern states. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher-turned-politician, has been the favorite among these evangelical voters and continued to seek their support with campaign events planned Saturday in Texas.
The Republican race is considered settled in favor of McCain, a former Navy pilot and 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. Huckabee trails with 257 delegates.
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Associated Press Writers Mike Glover in Waco, Texas, and Tom Raum in Houston contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-03 01:14 GMT+08:00