Wisconsin weather slows Clinton, Obama

February 17, 2008 6:43:59 PM PST
Grounded by bad weather, Hillary Rodham Clinton noshed on eggs at a diner and visited a Hispanic grocery Sunday while her advisers argued that Barack Obama had abandoned a commitment to accept public funding if he wins the Democratic presidential nomination.

Weather also forced Obama to cancel his only planned event in the state, a town hall in Kaukauna. Earlier, he flew secretly to North Carolina to visit former Sen. John Edwards, whose endorsement both Clinton and Obama are seeking. Edwards quit the campaign earlier this month.

Last week, Obama's campaign walked back from a proposal the Illinois senator made last year to accept public financing for the general election if the Republican nominee also agreed to do so. Such a commitment would level the financial playing field with the apparent GOP nominee, John McCain, whose campaign has had a harder time raising money than Obama, who has broken all fundraising records.

Obama's campaign said accepting public financing was an option he would consider if he wins the nomination, rather than a hard pledge.

Clinton advisers seized on the apparent shift, suggesting it highlighted Obama's pattern of making promises to voters and revising them later as circumstances change.

"When a campaign is based on promises and wonderful oratory, let's take a look at those promises," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson told reporters on a conference call. He refused to say whether Clinton would commit to accepting public financing if she wins the Democratic nomination.

"We will assess the situation when we get to that point," he said.

As evidence that Obama abandons promises, Wolfson noted that Obama once had stated his support for a "single payer" government-run health system, only to revise his views as he contemplated a presidential bid.

"We don't need lectures on campaign finance from a campaign that's accepted more money from lobbyists than any other Republican or Democratic candidate who's run for president," Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded. "This is a question we will address if and when Obama is the nominee."

A heavy snowstorm forced Clinton to scrap three scheduled appearances in Wisconsin on Sunday. Instead, she sampled a spicy Mexican sauce at a grocery store in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood in Milwaukee and purchased hot peppers, which she eats in large quantities to ward off colds.

Earlier, the former first lady visited Miss Katie's Diner near Marquette University, surprising patrons. She ate breakfast with the states's lieutenant governor, Barbara Lawton, after shaking hands and posing for photos.

"She's very personable," Betsy Gonwa said after the New York senator stopped by her table.

But Gonwa said she and her husband already had cast absentee ballots for Obama.

"It was a really hard decision, but we heard him speak when he came here a year ago. This is the first time we've seen Hillary," Willy Gonwa said.

Wolfson, during the conference call, defended the Clinton campaign's decision to leave Wisconsin a day before Tuesday's primary to campaign in Ohio. Polls show a tight race in Wisconsin even as Clinton advisers have publicly downplayed their expectations for the state.

"We feel very good about our chances in Texas and Ohio," Wolfson said of the two delegate-rich states holding primaries March 4. Clinton's campaign has virtually banked its future on success in both states, but Wolfson refused to say the former first lady must win both places to continue with her campaign.

"We don't consider any states to be 'must win' at this point," he said.


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