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Clintons mount two-front campaign blitz in Ohio, Texas to hold off Obama surge

Clintons mount two-front campaign blitz in Ohio, Texas to hold off Obama surge

Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, the former president, waged a two-front campaign blitz Saturday in the two big states she needs to win to keep her Democratic presidential campaign afloat and slow front-runner Barack Obama's momentum.
Ohio and Texas hold pivotal primaries Tuesday, along with the smaller states of Vermont and Rhode Island. A total of 370 nominating convention delegates are at stake in the four states.
"This is one of the most momentous decisions any Texan could make," Clinton told a training session for campaign volunteers in San Antonio Saturday morning. "You are, in effect, hiring the next president of the United States."
Obama's string of 11 victories since the Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" contests has raised questions about the viability of Clinton's candidacy.
Hillary Clinton was winging back and forth between Texas and Ohio ahead of Tuesday's voting. She opened her weekend by rallying backers at a training session in San Antonio aimed at preparing activists for the incredibly complex primary system, widely known as the "Texas two-step."
Two-thirds of the delegates at stake in Texas will be picked during a traditional primary. That is followed Tuesday night by a round of caucuses in the state's 8,000 precincts where the other third will be allocated.
Polls have shown Texas to be a virtual dead heat and the outcome could hinge on which campaign does a better job of getting backers to the polls. Clinton has a lead, albeit a shrinking one, in Ohio and the same dynamic is in place.
Clinton later held a rally in Fort Worth. She planned to fly to Ohio Saturday night to kick off an "88 counties in 88 hours" bus marathon through that state, stretching into Monday morning.
Speaking with reporters on her campaign plane, Hillary Clinton said she will continue to hammer on the distinctions she has drawn with Obama on national security.
"It's a defining issue and it's one that the voters of Texas and America deserve to think about," said Clinton.
Obama has accused her of trying to scare voters, but Clinton said presidential candidates must assure voters they understand security issues, particularly in a campaign against John McCain, a veteran senator and former Vietnam prisoner of war.
"I think it would be really a disservice to voters not to raise national security in this campaign in a way that focuses the attention of voters," said Clinton.
Big-name surrogates led by Bill Clinton were already rumbling across Ohio and Texas as part of her campaign's windup to Tuesday.
At a rally in Kirtland, Ohio, just east of Cleveland, on Saturday, the former president said his wife is the only Democrat in the presidential race who has a plan to create jobs in the battered industrial state that badly needs an economic boost.
"We're not creating enough jobs," he said. "We're not creating the jobs needed for the future. We're not making the kind of investment necessary to make ourselves competitive."
He added that his wife will be a caring president who won't forget their concerns.
"Who is most likely to remember the look on your face and the concern in your heart after the election is over? You should say yes to Hillary," he said.
The New York senator will then return to Texas for a televised town hall meeting, and she has purchased airtime to broadcast it across the state. She plans to await results which could decide her political future in Ohio Tuesday night.
Obama held a campaign rally Saturday in Providence, Rhode Island. The Illinois senator has announced he will spend Tuesday night in Texas. A win in Texas would allow Obama to counter the Clinton campaign's argument that although he has won more states, she has carried the big states like California, New York and New Jersey.
Many strategists argue that Clinton must win the big tests on Tuesday to continue her candidacy. Her strategists have begun to dispute that thinking and carve out a scenario for continuing if results in Texas and Ohio are disappointing.
Obama has been leading the former first lady in the popular vote, committed delegates and fundraising. In a conference call to reporters Friday, 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, as recently as Feb. 20, even 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."
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.
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.
McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, 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 whose troops are fighting in Afghanistan.
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 needs to rally support from 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. He was campaigning Saturday in Texas.
The Republican race is considered settled in favor of McCain. 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 M.R. Kropko in Kirtland, Ohio and Mike Glover in San Antonio, Texas, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-15 01:58 GMT+08:00