Obama says he will fine-tune his campaign

Democrat Barack Obama said on Friday he would fine-tune his United States presidential campaign and remind voters of his humble roots after a defeat in Pennsylvania fuelled in part by his failure to win over working-class voters.

Obama leads the Democratic race but is in a gruelling battle with Hillary Clinton for the right to face Republican John McCain in November’s presidential election. Nine of the state-by-state nominating contests remain before voting ends on June 3.

Obama, an Illinois senator, said he would make adjustments after losing Pennsylvania’s primary election to Clinton on Tuesday. That followed another big-state loss to Clinton, a New York senator, in Ohio in March.

”There’s no doubt that a campaign has to continually fine-tune itself,” Obama told reporters in Indiana, one of two crucial battlegrounds in the next round of contests on May 6.

”You know this has been a long campaign. What worked well three months ago, if you’re doing the exact same thing now, it may not work as well,” said Obama, who racked up a string of wins in February before stumbling in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Special interests

Standing at a gas station, Obama said his rivals were part of a Washington political establishment that had failed to rein in oil companies and other powerful special interests.

”The candidates with the Washington experience — my opponents — are good people. They mean well but they’ve been in Washington an awful long time and, even with all that experience they talk about, nothing has happened,” Obama said.

He said he was the only candidate who had tried to battle special interests and refused to take donations from lobbyists.

Clinton questioned Obama’s commitment to fighting special interests during a stop in Bloomington, Indiana, noting he voted for an energy bill backed by Vice-President Dick Cheney, a Republican.

”Actions speak louder than words. When it came time to stand up against the oil companies, to stand against Dick Cheney’s energy Bill, my opponent voted for it and I voted against it, Clinton said. ”That Bill had billions of dollars of giveaways to the oil companies.”

Clinton, a former first lady seeking to be the first female US president, and Obama have vied to portray themselves as the best stewards of a struggling economy in states hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs and the housing crisis.

But Obama, who would be the first black US president, has struggled to connect with white working-class voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. He was beaten badly by Clinton in Pennsylvania among low-income whites who do not have a college degree.

Out of touch?

The results followed Obama’s comments about ”bitter” small-town residents and subsequent charges by Clinton and McCain that he was an out-of-touch elitist.

”I think one of the things we’re going to have to do during the next several weeks is just remind people of where I come from,” said Obama, who was raised by a single mother and her parents and attended school on scholarship.

”I was raised with far fewer advantages than either of my two remaining opponents.”

Clinton began the day in North Carolina, the other May 6 battleground, where Obama has a double-digit lead in most opinion polls and blacks are expected to make up about one-third of the primary electorate.

The two Democrats are running close in polls in Indiana.

Clinton is struggling to cut Obama’s nearly unassailable lead in delegates to the Democratic Party’s nominating convention in August and to catch up in popular votes won during the four-month primary battle.

Neither Democrat will be able to win the 2 025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination without help from the nearly 800 superdelegates — elected officials and party insiders who are free to back any candidate.

McCain campaigned with former rival Mike Huckabee in Arkansas, where he sidestepped questions about whether the former Arkansas governor might join him as his vice-presidential candidate.

He said his vice-presidential search was in the early stages and declined to speculate about Huckabee’s chances.

”If you talk about people’s names, it rapidly leads to an invasion of privacy,” he said.

It was the second day in a row McCain has campaigned with a potential running mate. In New Orleans on Thursday, he appeared with Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal. – Reuters 2008

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