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03 Apr 2008 07:46
Democratic White House contender Barack Obama on Wednesday mocked rival Hillary Clinton’s claim to be a “Rocky” fighter for the working classes, as polls suggested he is punching into her lead in gritty Pennsylvania.
“We all love Rocky, and last time I checked I was the underdog in this state,” Obama told trade unionists after Clinton, addressing the same audience on Tuesday, likened herself to Sylvester Stallone’s indomitable boxer.
But in a speech to the state convention of the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO), the Illinois senator noted that Rocky Balboa was fiction.
“And so is the idea that someone can fight for working people and at the same time embrace the broken system in Washington,” Obama said to approving guffaws, portraying Clinton as the consummate political insider.
Obama, who enjoys a small but solid lead over Clinton in the race to the Democratic nomination, wrapped up the final leg of a six-day bus tour around Pennsylvania ahead of the rust-belt state’s White House primary on April 22.
The African-American senator’s attempts to come across as a regular guy, down to a display of bowling ineptitude over the weekend, appear to have helped him drag Clinton’s Pennsylvania lead down to single digits.
A Quinnipiac University poll gave Clinton an edge of 50% to 41% over Obama in Pennsylvania, down from a 12-point lead in mid-March.
Another poll by Rasmussen had Clinton besting Obama by just five points in the state, 47% to 42%, half her lead a week ago.
Interviewed on MSNBC in front of a screaming crowd of college students at West Chester University, Obama conceded that Republican attackers would seize on fiery sermons by his former pastor if he becomes the Democratic nominee.
“Of course the Republicans will bring it back,” he said, describing incessant video replays of the race-baiting sermons by Reverend Jeremiah Wright as a “difficult moment”.
The trailing Clinton needs to win big in Pennsylvania and take swing states in May, such as Indiana, to have any hope of persuading Democratic bigwigs known as “superdelegates” to hand her the nomination.
But Obama on Wednesday won backing from Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal—one of the nearly 800 superdelegates who are free to vote for either candidate—and from Lee Hamilton, a respected foreign-policy sage in the party.
Freudenthal became the 65th superdelegate to endorse Obama since the nationwide nominating clashes of “Super Tuesday” on February 5.
The Wyoming governor, whose state was swept by Obama in March 8 caucuses, decried the “negativity, partisanship and lack of purpose” that he said were crippling the United States.
“Senator Obama is the Democratic candidate with the openness, honesty and skill to end this vicious cycle of business as usual,” Freudenthal said.
Clinton, meanwhile, hosted an “economic summit” in Pittsburgh, and like Obama offered billions in tax incentives to stop companies shipping US jobs to China and other cheap locations abroad.
Addressing the AFL-CIO meeting, Obama said it was an “outrage” that mortgage company bosses were pocketing hefty bonuses while many Americans are losing their homes in a nationwide crisis.
“So while I know there’s been some talk about whether the Democrats will be unified in November, America can’t afford another four years of the Bush policies, and that’s what [Republican candidate] John McCain’s offering.”—AFP
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