Clinton presses on as primary season nears end
|Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., touches a necklace she received as a gift during a campaign event at Flathead Indian Reservation in Pablo, Mont., Tuesday, May 27, 2008.|
South Dakota is predominantly Republican. And even though many of its voters have a lot in common with those who've backed Clinton in other primaries, most of the South Dakota Democrats who've ever won statewide election are backing Obama. That includes former Senator George McGovern, who was the presidential nominee in 1972.
South Dakota and Montana on Tuesday are a final chance for the candidates to display vote-getting power that could sway superdelegates elsewhere.
Kevin Rodriquez is a superdelegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands. And he's become the first to switch away from Obama and back to Clinton. It's the second time he's switched. Rodriquez won't say why but says it's his right and is about doing "what's best for America."
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate John McCain dared Obama to make a joint visit with him to Iraq to see "the facts on the ground" and accused the Democratic front-runner of lacking the wisdom or experience to back his view that the war was a mistake.
Obama snapped back that "I don't think John McCain or the Bush administration have a very strong argument to make about their foreign policy, so they're going to try to come up with diversions or distractions and not argue the substance."
Obama's campaign has been considering an overseas trip since last year to beef up his foreign policy credentials, but the extended fight for the Democratic nomination with Hillary Rodham Clinton has delayed those plans.
"A trip is under consideration but no final plans have been made," Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said.
The Illinois senator made his only trip to Iraq in January 2006 as part of a congressional delegation. McCain, a senator from Arizona, has been to Iraq eight times, most recently in March.
Obama picked up some fresh support Wednesday heading into a primary that could finally put him over the edge for the Democratic nomination.
Obama, who has increasingly turned his attention to the general election, got endorsements Wednesday from four more superdelegates but lost one. Their backing is essential because they are free to vote as they chose in the party's nominating convention in August.
Heading into Sunday's primary in Puerto Rico, the first-term senator has a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates to the party's national nominating convention, and is now 45 short of the 2,026 needed to capture the party's White House nod.
Puerto Rico's presidential primary, the island's first in nearly three decades, has brought the focus of American politics to a U.S. territory where residents cannot vote in the general election and largely do not identify with any mainland party.
But, with 55 delegates to be apportioned between him and Clinton, eyes are on the territory because Obama could theoretically clinch the nomination if he beats his rival. Clinton is counting on a victory to bolster her claim to have won the majority of popular votes based on a selective count of Democratic contests.
On Wednesday, McCain was continuing fundraising, with events in Los Angeles and Reno, Nevada. Obama was also in the west, offering a prelude to a likely general election matchup and the inevitable fight for three booming battleground states.
McCain sounded stung that Obama characterized the idea of a joint visit to Iraq as a "stunt," saying it showed Obama's "lack of appreciation of the importance of this issue."
"I just don't want to be involved in a political stunt," Obama said told the Web site of The New York Times on Wednesday.
"I think that if I'm going to Iraq, then I'm there to talk to troops and talk to commanders," Obama said in the interview. "I'm not there to try to score political points or perform. The work they're doing there is too important."
McCain supports continued U.S. military involvement in Iraq; Obama opposes the war and wants to bring home the troops.
McCain said Obama "was driven to his position by ideology and not by the facts on the ground. And he does not have the knowledge or the experience to make the judgments. Presidents have to listen and learn. Presidents have to make judgments no matter how popular or unpopular they may be."
Obama, who spoke to reporters on his airplane Wednesday night as he flew home to Chicago, said it's "not relevant" that he hasn't been to Iraq since 2006 and that McCain was using the argument as a diversion.
Clinton campaigned Wednesday in South Dakota which along with Montana hold the last two primaries on June 3. Her campaign aides were in Washington peppering uncommitted superdelegates with data indicating why she should be the Democratic presidential nominee.
Obama has 1,981 delegates, to Clinton's 1,780. A total of 2,026 delegates are needed to secure the nomination at present.
Clinton also is counting on a Democratic Party rules committee Saturday to seat the delegations from Michigan and Florida, whose primaries were voided when they were moved into January in violation of party rules.
Obama is willing to give her the lion's share of those delegates but is stopping short of her demand to fully recognize the two renegade states.
The DNC staff wrote in an analysis sent to members this week that the rules call for the two states to lose at least half their delegates at a minimum for voting too early.