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25 Jan 2008 12:44
The Clinton strategy of marginalising Barack Obama as an African-American candidate showed signs of success on the eve of Saturday’s Democratic primary in South Carolina.
Polls suggest Obama is in line to add South Carolina to his win in Iowa, but they also show a sharp drop in his support from white voters, undermining his claim to a leadership that transcends race.
A repeat of this pattern in the 22 primaries on Super Tuesday, February 5, would see Clinton come out on top.
A poll for the McClatchy news service on Friday showed white support for Obama down to 10% from 20% last week. Clinton had support from whites and African-Americans while John Edwards drew his support almost entirely from whites.
That rating may be peculiar to South Carolina, with its history of racism, but it is a worrying trend for a candidate who spent all of last year trying to avoid race.
Obama, asked by a reporter on the campaign trail in South Carolina on Thursday if he feared the Clintons were trying to pigeonhole him as the black candidate, said he had run his campaign and public career “based on the idea that we’re all in it together, and that black, white, Hispanic, Asian, all of us share common dreams, common fears, and common concerns”.
That approach, Obama said, won him votes “across the board” in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and will do so elsewhere.
“I’ll let the Clintons speak to what their strategy is going to be,” he said coolly.
The Clinton team pulled a negative radio ad that cast Obama as an admirer of Ronald Reagan after complaints from fellow Democrats about its accuracy.
The Obama team, in response, dropped a negative ad about the Clintons.
But otherwise the bitter and divisive battle for the Democratic nomination continued unabated.
But minutes later, on ABC television, she resumed attacking Obama for his links to a Chicago developer, Tony Rezko, who goes on trial for extortion next month.
Despite the hard-fought campaign in South Carolina, the Clinton camp has discounted the state and is concentrating its efforts on Super Tuesday, when 1 700 delegates in 22 states will be at stake.
Clinton, renewed by victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, is more confident on the campaign trail, and has begun to inject more emotion into her speeches.
She received an additional boost on Friday when her hometown newspaper, the New York Times, endorsed her for the Democratic nomination and John McCain for the Republicans. - Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008
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