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Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Pennsylvania to vote in must-win for Clinton

AFP, PHILADELPHIA  - Hillary Clinton must win Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary, but she needs to do more than simply scrape past rival Barack Obama to rescue her trailing White House bid.

The New York senator is tipped for victory in late opinion polls, but many observers think it will take a double-digit triumph to stave off more calls for her to quit the epic Democratic nomination race.

She also needs a fresh burst of momentum ahead of the next round of contests in Indiana and North Carolina on May 6, which are followed quickly by the last six voting showdowns of the epic nominating battle into early June.

A shock win by Obama would narrow Clinton's already unlikely route to the nomination, and likely snuff out her historic quest to be the first female president.

Polls are set to open in the economically pummeled northeastern state at 7:00 am (1100 GMT) and close at 8:00 pm (0000 GMT).

The former first lady's position is already perilous.

She trails Obama in total nominating contests won, pledged delegates apportioned in those showdowns, the popular vote, and the crucial multi-million-dollar campaign financing race.

But her camp stresses electability, not electoral mathematics, and on Monday she vowed to fight on until the end of the voting calendar.

"I'm going until everybody's had a chance to vote in this process," she said in a CNN interview."

Victory here would bolster Clinton's claim that only she can solidify the Democratic powerbase, woo socially conservative working-class voters, and prevail in crucial presidential battlegrounds.

"Assuming we do well in Pennsylvania, it will again show that we are better positioned to win the big swing states that any Democrat needs to win in November," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said Monday.

"The goal ... is to come out of Pennsylvania with a 'w' (win), and whether it's one vote or 1,000 votes or 10,000 votes, it does not matter."

Obama has spent millions of dollars in advertising in the state, and sharpened his attacks on Clinton, in an apparent bid to land a knockout that would allow him to set his sights on Republican John McCain.
But his remarks at a San Francisco fundraiser that some small town Americans were "bitter" over the economic squeeze, and so clung to religion and guns, may have dampened his poll surge, which saw him cut Clinton's lead to a few points.

Latest opinion surveys appeared to show Clinton headed for victory, but her hopes of a campaign-altering blowout seemed uncertain.

She led Obama 52 percent to 42 percent in a Suffolk University survey. A Quinnipiac University poll had her up seven points, 51-44 percent.

In a final election rally before thousands of supporters in Philadelphia, Clinton billed the primary as a long job interview, to find the person who would revive the US economy, secure universal healthcare and end the Iraq war.

"If you are willing to make that job offer, which I hope you will tomorrow, I accept," she said.

Obama, who matched Clinton's intense sprint round the state's major media markets on Monday, however predicted in an interview with a Pittsburgh radio station that he would do surprisingly well.

"I am not predicting a win. I am predicting it is going to be close and we are going to do a lot better than people expect," he told KDKA.
Clinton is making her fervent case to Democratic "superdelegates," the party officials who will now effectively crown the nominee, since neither candidate is likely to reach the 2,025 pledged delegates needed to win outright.

As the clock ticked down on the state campaign on Monday, Obama's camp accused Clinton of trying to scare Americans, after the release of a dark new campaign ad featuring Al-Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden.

The 30-second broadcast does not mention Obama by name, but the Illinois senator's spokesman Bill Burton fired off a robust response and brought up Clinton's vote in 2002 to authorize the Iraq war, which his boss opposed.

"It's ironic that she would borrow the president's tactics in her own campaign and invoke bin Laden to score political points," Burton said.

"We already have a president who plays the politics of fear, and we don't need another."

Even a 10-point victory for Clinton in Pennsylvania would not do much to cut into her rival's delegate lead, as the state's 158 delegates will be doled out under the Democratic system of proportional representation.

Obama currently leads by 1,650 total delegates to Clinton's 1,508, according to independent website RealClearPolitics.com

Clinton said Monday she might include Republicans in her cabinet if she were elected president.

"I'm going to reach out to Republicans, all kinds of Republicans, because I think it's important that we try to have a bipartisan foreign policy," she said on CNN's Larry King Live.

"I have very strong convictions about what we should do, but I'm going to listen to and enlist Republicans, as well as Democrats, not only elected ones but distinguished Americans of both parties."

She added: "We need to try to have a bipartisan government. We've got to restore confidence and competence to the American government."

Clinton conceded that John McCain, the Republican party's presumptive nominee for November's presidential election, had "extraordinary credentials" but said: "The bottom line is that his policies are wrong for America."

Also Monday Obama could not hide his irritation when asked by a reporter what he thought about former president Jimmy Carter's meeting with Hamas last week.

"Why can't I just eat my waffle?" the Illinois senator said as he ate breakfast in Scranton, Pennsylvania, according to MSNBC television pictures.

Pressed again for an answer, he replied: "Just let me eat my waffle."

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