Democrats focus on Ohio as Hillary denies looming defeat | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 24, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 24, 2008

Democrats focus on Ohio as Hillary denies looming defeat

US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her rival, Barack Obama, take their battle to the Midwestern state of Ohio Saturday after the New York senator denied she was contemplating defeat for her White House bid.
Reeling from Obama's 11 straight wins in nominating contests, Senator Clinton rejected the perception that her performance Thursday in a high-stakes debate in Austin, Texas, had a valedictory tone.
"This is going to be a spirited election between now and March 4," Hillary Clinton told supporters at a rally in Dallas, Texas, Friday.
"I am thrilled at the depth and breadth of support I have across the state," she said, knowing that Texas, along with Ohio, makes up a pair of must-win contests for her.
But in the debate the night before, the generous tribute she paid to her rival was seen by some commentators as an admission that her quest to be the first woman president could fall short.
"You know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honoured, I am honoured to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honoured," she said, and reached out to shake his hand.
While Hillary Clinton was making the case that her campaign was not on its last legs, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain was back in Indiana, attempting to shrug off news reports that connected him to corporate lobbyists and one, in the New York Times, that suggested he had had an improper relationship with a female lobbyist.
Other publications followed up the Times story Friday with accounts of their own of McCain -- who maintains a clean political image -- in close ties with lobbyists.
The White House, which has mostly stayed on the sidelines in the presidential race, came to Senator McCain's defence Friday, suggesting the Times is biased against Republicans.
"I think a lot of people here in this building with experience in a couple campaigns have grown accustomed to the fact that during the course of a campaign ... The New York Times does try to drop a bombshell on the Republican nominee," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.
"And sometimes they make incredible leaps to try to drop those bombshells on the Republican nominees," he added.
Senator Obama, who leads Clinton 1,368 to 1,271 in the race to win enough delegates to capture the Democratic nomination, made several appearances in Texas Friday, one of two large states to hold primaries on March 4 expected to either rescue or end Clinton's White House hopes.
Now favoured to win the Democratic nomination, Obama -- who seeks to become the country's first African-American president -- spent part of the time jousting with McCain over US foreign policy.
McCain attempted to skewer Obama over his offer in Thursday's debate to speak to leaders of US foes without preconditions, focusing on Cuba after the resignation of Fidel Castro.
"So Raul Castro gets an audience with an American president, and all the prestige such a meeting confers, without having to release political prisoners, allow free media, political parties, and labour unions, or schedule internationally monitored free elections," McCain said.
Obama hit back in his own statement: "John McCain would give us four more years of the same Bush-McCain policies that have failed US interests and the Cuban people for the last 50 years.
"My policy will be based on the principle of liberty for the Cuban people, and I will seek that goal through strong and direct presidential diplomacy."
As McCain and Obama exchanged barbs, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice moved to quash rumours she might join the White House race as the Republican candidate's running mate.
"I have always said that the one thing that I have not seen myself doing is running for elected office in the United States," she told a press conference. "It's sort of not in my genes."
Besides the pressure of a lagging campaign, the death of a police motorcyclist who crashed while escorting Hillary Clinton in Dallas Friday cast a pall of sadness over her team.
"We are just heartsick over this loss of life and I have asked that my condolences be conveyed to the family," Hillary Clinton said.
Meanwhile Clinton's camp sought to turn her melancholy remarks in the debate to her favour.
"What we saw in the final moments in that debate is why Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States," her spokesman Howard Wolfson said in a statement.
"Her strength, her life experience, her compassion. She's tested and ready.”

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