Barack Obama beat back any notion of giving up his presidential bid to be Hillary Rodham Clinton's running mate, urging people voting today not to be tricked by the New York senator or former president Bill Clinton, who have fanned the idea in recent days.
"I don't know how somebody who is in second place is offering the vice presidency to someone who is in first place," Obama said Monday in Columbus, Miss. "You all know the okey-doke. When somebody is trying to bamboozle you, when they are trying to hoodwink you."
Obama urged Mississippi voters to "make a choice" and not think "somehow I can get both" if they choose Clinton and believe Obama will be in the No. 2 slot. Later, Obama told a packed gym at Jackson State University: "I am not running for vice president. I am running for president of the United States of America."
Obama leads Clinton in delegates. She fueled speculation over a "dream ticket" when she hinted last week "that might be possible someday." Her husband and her top Pennsylvania supporter, Gov. Ed Rendell, both discussed such a pairing over the weekend.
As polls showed Obama with a double-digit lead in Mississippi, Clinton played down the joint-ticket idea in blue-collar Scranton, Pa. "It's preliminary to talk about whoever might be on whose ticket," she said.
There are 33 delegates at stake in Mississippi, compared with 158 in Pennsylvania, which holds its primary April 22. Clinton is scheduled to appear today in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's capital, and Philadelphia, while Obama is in Fairless Hills, a Philadelphia suburb.
A majority of Democrats and those leaning toward the party, 51%, believe Clinton and Obama should settle quickly on running as a joint ticket, according to a Gallup Poll taken Thursday through Sunday. The poll showed more Clinton supporters, 59%, are in favor of them running together, compared with 45% of Obama supporters.
Obama had won 12 straight contests until last week when Clinton won the Rhode Island, Ohio and Texas primaries. He easily beat her this weekend in the Wyoming caucus, and some experts say he'll score another victory today.
"If you've got a sizable majority of Democrats who're African-American, and in other recent state elections 80% of African-Americans have gone for Obama, then it looks like Obama's going to win," says Steve Rozman, a political scientist at Tougaloo College near here. "I'd be very surprised if Hillary Clinton won."
Democratic voter turnout could set a record. Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, expects black voter turnout to be as much as 50% higher than in the 2004 primary. "There's been a lot of energy nationally, and I think African-Americans here are excited and energized, too," he said.
Some black voters here are sticking with Clinton because they feel they know and trust her. "I just don't have the information I would like to have about what he would do for Mississippi," said Jerry Keahey, a retired chemistry teacher in Jackson public schools.
Contributing: The Associated Press