Sens Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama face off tonight in the 20th Democratic debate -- and the last one before crucial votes in the delegate-rich states of Ohio and Texas are cast.
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It is do-or-die time for Clinton's presidential campaign. Senior advisers say she will firmly but calmly draw contrasts tonight between her and Obama.
If she does not win in Ohio and Texas, this could be the last debate until the general election debates in the fall.
Dodd Endorses Obama
Campaigning in Cleveland today, Obama accepted the endorsement of Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd.
"This is the moment for Democrats and independents and others to come together, to get behind this candidacy," Dodd told reporters at a news conference today with Obama.
Dodd described his awkward phone call to Clinton last night to inform her of his decision.
"She was as gracious as she could be," Dodd said, noting she was "obviously disappointed, maybe even something beyond disappointment," but said she appreciated the call.
"I said, 'I didn't want you to hear it from the media. I want you to hear it from me.' She said, 'I really appreciate that,'" Dodd said.
'Hope Is Not a Plan'
Taking the high road, Obama today soft-pedaled the outrage his campaign had expressed over accusations that the Clinton campaign had circulated a photograph of him in African tribal dress to play into false rumors that he's Muslim.
"Certainly I don't think that photograph was circulated to enhance my candidacy," Obama said today. "I think that is fair to say. Do I think it's reflective of Sen. Clinton's approach to the campaign? Probably not."
At a town hall in Lorain, Ohio, today, Clinton continued to argue that Obama's talk about major issues such as the housing crisis is hot air.
"You can't do it … just by hoping for it," she said, "Hope is not a plan."
Clinton talked today about her plan to ease the housing crisis with Ohio voters who are losing their homes.
Clinton also mentioned her anger over the weekend about two Obama mailers attacking her on health care and and North American Free Trade Agreement
"Shame on you, Barack Obama!" Clinton said Saturday, accusing Obama of trying to mislead Ohio voters about her record.
Tuesday Clinton explained her anger, saying, "I got a little hot over the weekend down in Cincinnati, you know, because I don't mind having a debate. I don't mind airing our differences, but I really minded when Sen. Obama's campaign sends you literature in the mail that is false, misleading and has been discredited."
Clinton has sent Ohioans misleading literature of her own, including out-of-context quotes that misleadingly imply that Obama was a supporter of NAFTA, which he was not.
During tonight's debate in Ohio, Clinton may try to paint Obama as a hypocrite on NAFTA, a trade deal that he criticizes as having cost Ohioans jobs.
But Clinton's main contrast will likely be to emphasize her experience in foreign policy and the economy, casting Obama as a callow youth who cannot be trusted to handle those momentous issues.
Supporters of Clinton admit she has had trouble finding a voice that is critical of Obama without seeming too harsh. But she cannot let this possible final debate go by without drawing contrasts and stopping Obama's momentum going into the March 4 primary votes.