High noon for Obama vs Clinton in Texas, Ohio

March 5th, 2008 - 5:57 am ICT by admin  

Washington, March 5 (DPA) Voters in the states of Ohio and Texas poured into churches, schools and civic centers Tuesday to vote for presidential nominations, with all eyes on the contest between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic Party nod.

Voters in the smaller states of Rhode Island and Vermont were also casting ballots, while Republican Senator John McCain was expected to tighten an already vice-like grip on his party’s nomination.

Obama and Clinton have dominated front pages with their every step and stumble under a microscope in these late stages of their close intra-party race.

“I feel really good not only about the primary today but also about what’s possible for us in Texas come the fall,” Clinton said in last minute campaigning in Houston.

Democratic voters in Texas will have a chance to vote twice on - once in regular party primary balloting during the day that determines two-thirds of the state’s delegates to the nominating convention in August in Denver; and a second time in party caucuses that determine the remaining third.

The system, unique in the patchwork system of party rules, is called the Texas two-step.

A key issue in Tuesday’s vote is the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that has benefited Texas with stronger exports but hurt Ohio, where tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost.

Both candidates have said NAFTA needs to be renegotiated or even dismantled to protect American workers, but Obama has gotten into hot water after it was revealed that one of his economic advisors assured Canada behind the scenes that Obama wasn’t really serious about the pledge.

Obama defended himself against the charges in broadcast remarks on Tuesday, saying that Clinton was pedalling a false story of “contradictions and winks and nods that has been disputed by all parties involved”.

He said in fact that the Canadians had reached out to his senior economic policy advisor, Austan Goolsbee, on the issue, not the other way around. And he charged that Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, were the ones who had championed NAFTA during the 1990s.

Other questions have been raised from the Clinton campaign about Obama’s relationship with a developer n Chicago, Antoin Rezko, now on trial for exploiting political relationships with the governor of Illinois to obtain kickbacks on state contracts.

Obama charged that Clinton was throwing the “kitchen sink” at him by raising such issues in her desperate last minute bid to keep her campaign alive.

Over the past week, there has also been humour. Clinton’s charges that she was subjected to more media scrutiny than Obama prompted one of the nation’s favourite political satire shows, Saturday Night Live, to portray famous television journalists fawning over Obama.

Clinton, a former first lady and two-term US senator, has been hammering the issue of national security and Obama’s lack of experience.

A television ad from Clinton’s campaign shows sleeping children, then asks whom viewers would want to be in the White House when the phone rings at 3 am.

Within hours, Obama had a similar ad on the air, showing uncannily similar sleeping children, asking a similar question, and answering that the people want someone who would not have voted to give US President George W. Bush authority to invade Iraq.

Obama’s criticism of Clinton has centred on her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war, coupled with his argument that she’s too much of a political insider in a country that wants change.

In turn, Obama has been criticized by Clinton - and even by the White House - for his declared willingness to meet with leaders of hostile nations.

“This is going to be a campaign about national security,” Clinton said at a recent campaign stop, her voice hoarse. “If Senator Obama doesn’t want to debate me about national security, how is he going to debate (McCain) about national security?”

Obama has been outdistancing Clinton in raising campaign money and has increasingly outspent her. He has spent about $15.3 million on TV advertising since early February in Texas and Ohio, compared to Clinton’s $8 million in ads for Tuesday’s major states, The New York Times reported.

If Clinton fails to win both Ohio and Texas, pundits believe Obama will seal the Democratic nomination Tuesday.

Obama has won the last 10 state contests, giving him a significant lead in the battle for delegates to the centre-left Democratic Party’s nominating convention in August. Even former president Bill Clinton has said that his wife must win both Ohio and Texas for her campaign to remain viable.

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