Ragged Clinton campaign braces for more vote woe

Hillary Clinton’s stuttering White House campaign faces the prospect of three new hammer blows on Tuesday, with Democratic rival Barack Obama tipped to sweep a trio of Washington-area nominating contests.

Clinton insisted her historic quest was in good shape, despite replacing her campaign manager and opinion polls that suggest she will tumble to defeat in the United States capital, Maryland and Virginia after five Obama wins at the weekend.

”I think things have gone well. I think this is always going to be a competitive race because there’s so much at stake,” the former first lady said in an interview with ABC’s Washington affiliate on Monday.

”I’ve been around a long time, so, you know, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. I’ve been through all of that. But I feel really good about where we are.”

Campaign operatives signalled on Monday that they were now pinning their hopes on Ohio and Texas, big states that vote on March 4, to close an anticipated gap with the surging Obama.

Despite Clinton emerging from last week’s 22-state Super Tuesday Democratic showdown neck-and-neck with the Illinois senator, he picked up weekend wins in Louisiana, Nebraska, Maine, Washington state and the US Virgin Islands.

In so doing, Obama nudged ahead in the race for delegates portioned out by each state, which will formally pick the party nominee at the Democratic convention in August.

Obama now leads Clinton 1 144 to 1 138 in the running delegate count, according to website RealClearPolitics.com. A total of 2 025 delegates are needed for the nomination.

The role of about 440 still-undecided super delegates — party luminaries who can choose to vote for either candidate — is now likely to be critical.

In a new sign of alarm for Clinton, the Illinois Senator overhauled her in a new USA Today/Gallup nationwide poll for the first time in a year, carving out a 47 to 44 point lead.

Polls in Washington DC and neighbouring Maryland open at 7am local time and close at 8pm, while Virginians start and end voting an hour earlier.

Latest opinion surveys show Obama poised for solid victories in the so-called Potomac Primary, in states with large numbers of African Americans and upper-crust white voters.

Clinton was asked in the ABC interview whether there were any hidden business or personal scandals stalking her husband, former president Bill Clinton, that Republicans could exploit.

”That is not going to happen. You know, none of us can predict the future, no matter who we are and what we’re running for, but I’m very confident that that will not happen,” she said.

The question was one of the few occasions when the turmoil that wracked the Clinton White House has been directly raised in the 2008 campaign.

She also hit out at Obama’s soaring rhetorical style.

”You never hear the specifics,” she said. ”It’s all this kind of abstract, general talk about how we all need to get along.”

”I want to get along, and I have gotten along in the Senate. I will work with Republicans to find common cause whenever I can, but I will also stand my ground, because there are fights worth having.”

But Obama hit back in a follow-on interview with the network, after declining to directly debate Clinton, that his campaign could take her on.

”What we have shown is that we can take a punch. We have shown that we can take a loss,” he said.

Clinton’s replacement on Sunday of campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle with long-time aide Maggie Williams sparked a fresh spate of headlines about the former first lady’s supposed vulnerability.

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain, who emerged from last week’s Super Tuesday contests as presumptive nominee, enjoyed a more than 20% lead in the latest polls in Maryland.

His last viable remaining rival, Mike Huckabee, however, vowed to fight on, despite having only a narrow chance of catching up. — AFP



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Stephen Collinson
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