Obama the frontrunner faces the long knives

March 2nd, 2008 - 8:52 am ICT by admin  

By Chris Cermak
Washington, March 2 (DPA) Barack Obama could well seal the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday if rival Hillary Clinton fails to win crucial primary contests in Ohio and Texas - two of the biggest remaining states up for grabs in what has been a hotly contested race. Clinton faces an uphill battle even as Republicans this week began sharpening their attacks on Obama in the expectation that he could soon be the undisputed Democratic nominee.

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

Hillary Clinton, 60, ratcheted up her own rhetoric against Obama in the run-up to Tuesday’s contest, suggesting that his relative lack of experience made him unprepared to be commander in chief.

A Clinton campaign commercial released Friday asked: “It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep … who do you want answering the phone in the White House?”

Obama, 46, countered immediately with his own nearly identical commercial that said a president of “judgement” should be answering that 3 a.m. telephone call, reverting to his long-standing criticism that Clinton supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Clinton has not been the only one attacking Obama this week for lacking the experience needed to lead the country.

Senator John McCain - who is virtually guaranteed of winning the Republican presidential nomination - and even President George W. Bush turned their attention to Obama and suggested he lacked understanding of the situation in Iraq and foreign policy.

McCain, who is a vocal supporter of the war in Iraq, and Obama, who opposed the war and has promised to pull troops out, traded barbs in what many viewed as a prelude of the key issue in the general election.

McCain attacked the Illinois senator for suggesting that, after pulling out of Iraq, he would reserve the right to return if the terrorist group Al Qaeda established bases in the country.

“I have some news. Al Qaeda is in Iraq,” McCain quipped at a rally Wednesday. “Al Qaeda is called ‘Al Qaeda in Iraq’.”

“I have some news for John McCain,” Obama fired back at his own rally the same day. “There was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade.”

Bush jumped on the same remarks at a press conference Thursday, and also criticized Obama’s offer to meet with foreign adversaries such as new Cuban leader Raul Castro as “extremely counterproductive”.

“It’s an interesting comment - ‘If Al Qaeda is securing an Al Qaeda base’,” Bush said. “Yes, well, that’s exactly what they’ve been trying to do for the past four years.”

McCain, a 71-year-old Arizona senator and one-time prisoner of war in Vietnam, still faces a challenge from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who has remained in the race for the Republican nomination despite nearly insurmountable odds.

McCain has barely mentioned Huckabee on the campaign trail in recent weeks, instead shoring up support among Republicans and honing his message that Obama would be a risky choice for president in a time of war.

Obama, who was only elected to the US Senate in 2004, bolstered his foreign policy credentials with the endorsement Friday of veteran Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Obama and Clinton have crisscrossed both Texas and Ohio over the past two weeks as they traded accusations over trade, healthcare and who can bring change to Washington, and recent polls have shown that Tuesday’s result is anyone’s guess. Obama holds a slight edge over Clinton in Texas while Clinton has a small lead in Ohio.

The smaller northeastern states of Vermont and Rhode Island are also set to vote Tuesday.

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