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12 May 2008 07:19
Barack Obama, setting his sights well beyond Tuesday’s primary against Hillary Clinton, on Sunday began preparations for a summer series of debates against the Republican John McCain.
While Clinton campaigned doggedly in West Virginia, which holds its primary on Tuesday, the Obama camp consolidated its claim on the Democratic nomination and began revealing its strategy for the coming presidential elections.
“We are coming to the end of the process,” Obama’s strategist, David Axelrod, said on Sunday in an appearance on Fox television. “I think there is an eagerness on the part of the party to get on with the general election campaign.”
On Saturday, Obama reached an important milestone when he surpassed Clinton’s once formidable advantage among superdelegates, the elected and senior Democratic officials who are free to support the candidate of their choosing.
The steady stream of superdelegates declaring their support for Obama since last Tuesday now gives him 276, against 274 for Clinton.
Obama now leads Clinton on every metric of the race: pledged delegates, superdelegates, popular vote and states won.
With the nomination nearly wrapped up, Axelrod said his camp was in discussions with McCain on the Republican’s proposal for a series of town hall debates. The proposal would potentially match Obama and McCain on several more occasions than the usual schedule of three televised debates for a presidential election.
It would also maintain the momentum of an election season which began far earlier than in any other year. The unmoderated debates under discussion would start even before Obama is formally named the Democratic nominee at the party’s convention in late August.
The Republicans hold their nomination convention in early September. However, the convention organiser, Doug Goodyear, resigned at the weekend after reports that his public relations firm had done business for the military junta in Burma. The association was an embarrassment for McCain, who has criticised the regime.
In addition to working out a debate schedule with McCain, the Obama camp at the weekend launched a drive to register new voters—and potentially drive up Democratic turnout during the presidential elections next November.
With Clinton hunkered down in the states still to hold their primary contests, Obama broadened his travel itinerary to states that will be pivotal in the November elections. He announced plans to campaign in the midwestern swing state of Missouri, where he hopes to build up his strength among the white working class, who so far have leaned towards Clinton.
Obama is to visit Missouri on Tuesday, the day West Virginia goes to the polls, for an economic forum. The tour schedule, while trying to build up Obama’s support ahead of the November showdown against McCain, is also meant to distract from Clinton’s overwhelming advantage in West Virginia, where polls show her as much as 40 points ahead.
Clinton has tried to cast West Virginia as a pivotal contest—even though its meagre haul of delegates will do little to alter the maths of this Democratic race. “If Barack Obama wants Hillary Clinton out of this race, beat her in West Virginia,” a Clinton adviser, Howard Wolfson, told Fox television on Sunday. “It is a key swing state.”
But for all the fighting talk from the Clinton camp, and the frenetic campaign schedule of Hillary, Bill and Chelsea, it increasingly appears as if West Virginia could be the last moment of triumph for the cash-strapped campaign.
She held another fundraiser on Saturday geared at women supporters amid speculation that she may be forced to drop out of the race by debt. Wolfson told Fox on Sunday her campaign owed $21-million, which includes a loan from the Clintons’ fortunes of more than $11-million.
The Clinton cash crisis, as well as Obama’s steadily growing lead in delegates has begun to close the door on a comeback—despite her hard-fought efforts.
“She makes a compelling case for her candidacy. But you can’t make a compelling case for the math,” John Edwards, who ended his campaign for the White House earlier this year, told CBS television. - guardian.co.uk Â
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