(AFP) – Mar 12, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton donned their armor Wednesday for six weeks of trench warfare as their increasingly toxic White House race headed on to April's Pennsylvania primary.
Obama trounced Clinton on Tuesday in Mississippi by 61 percent to 37, riding huge support from African-Americans, after a new race row rocked their battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"We did very well in Wyoming. We did great in Mississippi. And so we've now basically recovered whatever delegates we may have lost in Texas and Ohio. And we've got a substantial lead," Obama said on NBC's "Today Show."
The Illinois senator ridiculed assertions by 1984 vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, a prominent Clinton backer, who put Obama's stunning rise in national politics down to his race.
He said "if you were to get a handbook on what's the path to the presidency, I don't think that the handbook would start by saying, 'Be an African-American named Barack Obama.'"
Clinton has declined to fire Ferraro from her finance committee, and Wednesday switched her attack to demanding that the pariah states of Florida and Michigan be seated at the Democrats' August convention in Denver.
"In my view there are two options: Honor the results or hold new primary elections," the New York senator said in remarks to the Hispanic Chamber Of Commerce in Washington.
"I don't see any other solutions that are fair and honor the commitment that two and a half million voters made in the Democratic primaries in those two states," she said.
Clinton won Florida and Michigan in January. But the primaries were effectively meaningless because the states had broken party rules by bringing forward their contests, and so were stripped of their convention delegates.
The cost of new primaries -- at least 18 million dollars in Florida alone -- is considered prohibitive so options for a repeat vote include a cheaper mail-in ballot.
The Obama campaign, noting that he was not even on the ballot in Michigan, is crying foul over sticking to the January results but is also unhappy that Clinton supporters dominant in the states would organize any re-do.
The "easiest way" to respect the will of two crucially important states for the general election would be to split their delegations 50-50 in Denver, Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe said.
On a conference call, Plouffe also touted Obama's ability to take on Republican John McCain by winning over independent voters, and not just die-hard Democrats in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
"We as the Democratic party simply cannot afford another narrow playing field where we have no margin for error," he said, looking beyond Pennsylvania to May battles in states such as North Carolina, Indiana and Kentucky.
"As the number of remaining pledged delegates dwindles, Hillary Clinton's path to the nomination seems less and less plausible."
The Illinois senator punched back with his second win in a row since the former first lady's campaign-saving wins in Texas and Ohio last week, which halted his own 12-contest win streak and extended their epic struggle.
Clinton is already campaigning hard in Pennsylvania, a heavyweight state whose economic problems mirror places like Ohio. The state will elect 188 delegates on April 22, the biggest haul in the 10 Democratic contests left.
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said the path to the White House "goes through Pennsylvania."
"So if Barack Obama can't win there, how will he win the general election?" he said.
Obama now has a seemingly impregnable lead of about 120 delegates after 46 primaries and caucuses, but neither candidate can reach the winning line of 2,025 without the backing of party grandees called "superdelegates."
The latest racially tinged row of the Democratic campaign raged after Ferraro told a California newspaper: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."
Clinton said she did "not agree" with the comments and found it "regrettable" that supporters might resort to personal attacks, but did not cut Ferraro loose.
Ferraro accused Obama of twisting her remarks, and stood by her belief that the Illinois senator's star power owed everything to his not being another white, male politician.
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