Dems already targeting March 4

February 12, 2008 9:35:00 AM PST
Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is counting on the almost-Super Tuesday primaries March 4 for another comeback, as she and rival Sen. Barack Obama both begin ads in Texas and Ohio, the day's biggest prizes. Barring an upset win for Clinton in the next five Democratic contests, she could well have suffered 10 straight defeats by the time Democrats begin voting March 4 in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont - the biggest single day left on the Democratic nominating calendar.

The New York senator bounced back earlier in New Hampshire after Obama defeated her in Iowa. Now she says "I am very confident" of doing much better when 370 delegates are allocated March 4.

Neither Clinton nor Obama could win enough delegates that day to clinch the nomination, but the outcome could sway increasingly crucial superdelegates - the party officials who are not bound by primary and caucus voting and may end up picking the nominee.

Both campaigns planned to launch TV ads Tuesday in Texas and Ohio, where voters will select 193 and 141 delegates, respectively. Between them, the two states have another 55 superdelegates.

The Illinois senator's ad targeted one of Clinton's perceived strengths - health care.

Her ads played on one of her strengths, going up simultaneously in English and Spanish, crucial in Texas where Hispanics could supply up to half the Democratic votes. Hispanics have heavily favored Clinton over Obama in earlier contests. He planned Spanish ads later in the week.

Saturating the huge Texas media markets could cost each of them $1 million a week, but there were other places to spend money as the neck-and-neck Democratic contenders battle over every delegate. With three weeks to the voting, both camps also are scrambling to build organizations in all four states.

"It won't be as strong of a ground game as they had in Iowa because they had months and months and months" to prepare for the campaign's first contest, said Caleb Faux, executive director of Ohio's Hamilton County Democratic Party.

The campaigns used tickets to punk-rock concerts, deep-fried foods and even drinks called Hillaritas to lure volunteers who can build databases, canvass and staff phone banks.

"The directive we've gotten is to do everything you can locally to harness the energy," said Carter Stewart, an Obama volunteer who has coordinated Ohio friends to wave signs at events.

Last Friday, the Clinton campaign, which has done better among lower-paid workers, dispatched Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland to rally support in the economically depressed Rust Belt city of Youngstown. "It would be very difficult for her to proceed to eventual victory without winning Ohio," Strickland said Monday.

Next Friday, Obama's camp plans to bring 2,000 new volunteers to Cleveland, home to a significant batch of the black voters who account for one in eight registered Ohio Democrats. Bidding to be the first black president, Obama has overwhelmingly won black votes in earlier contests.

At Ohio's Bowling Green State University, Obama volunteers combined a punk-rock concert with a campaign sign-up.

In Rhode Island, where voters will allocate 21 delegates, more than 250 Obama volunteers already met at a Dollar General store to go door-to-door. The campaign was making use of Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama's brother and the coach of Brown University men's basketball team.

In Vermont, where voters will decide on 15 delegates, former state Rep. Mary Sullivan, an Obama supporter, has been looking for space to house an expected influx of workers as people in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York call to volunteer. Billi Gosh, a Vermont super delegate who supports Clinton, expressed frustration that her campaign has relied entirely on volunteers in Vermont and has yet to send in a staff worker. "We really need a staffer, and we need Bill or Hillary Clinton to come here," she said.

In Dallas, potential Clinton supporters piled into wood-paneled booths at Metro Grill to watch Super Tuesday returns and snack on fried red onion strings.

Clinton herself scheduled personal appearances Tuesday and Wednesday in El Paso, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and McAllen, all predominantly Latino cities where her husband, the former president, is so popular his portrait hangs in many Mexican restaurants.

Obama is relatively new to Texans but held two well-attended rallies in the past year in Austin, the state's most liberal city. He's also been lining up notable supporters in Houston and Dallas. Obama has time to catch up, said Lydia Camarillo, vice president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project in San Antonio. "The Hispanic vote is Hillary's right now. But he's made some gains."

Some Latino voters could be swayed by Obama's support from the Kennedy family, said political science professor Jerry Polinard at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg. But Polinard added, "He's going to have difficulty cracking her stranglehold on the Latino vote."

In Ohio, bus loads of activists and their friends and neighbors rolled into Columbus' Harrison Park Center to hear how they could help Obama in Ohio. More than 500 came; the room inside was set up with 120 chairs.

"The good news, if you're running the Obama campaign, is there's a lot of energy there and people are ready to work," said Ed Helvey, chairman of Ohio's Delaware County Democratic Party who visited the meeting.

"The bad news? They had their first real big meeting a month out."

---

Associated Press writers Kelley Shannon in Austin, Texas, Michelle R. Smith in Providence, R.I., and David Gram in Montpelier, Va., contributed to this report.


Load Comments