Texas-Sized Showdowns for Clinton, Obama

By Dotcomabc

Mar 1, 2008 11:02am

ABC News’ David Wright and Kate Snow report: Sen. Hillary Clinton has staked her presidential campaign on Texas and Ohio — and this weekend, with only three days to go before the Democratic primaries in those states, she is battling Sen. Barack Obama and his streak of 11 consecutive wins with everything she has.

In a season of important contests, Tuesday’s are now seen as the ones that could prove decisive. Polls show Clinton ahead in Ohio, while Texas is a virtual dead heat.

With the Democratic campaign possibly hinging on the two battleground states, the candidates are locked in a down-to-the-wire weekend of marathon travel, stump speeches and attacks and counterattacks.

Clinton has focused her efforts on emphasizing national security and at the same time questioning Obama’s credentials.

“His entire campaign is based on a speech he gave at an antiwar rally in 2002 — a lot of talk, little action. Or as they say in Texas, all hat, no cattle,” she said today aboard her campaign plane.

Before heading to Ohio today, Obama was in Providence, R.I., questioning Clinton’s words.

“We need leaders in Washington who say what they mean and mean what they say,” Obama said. “I don’t want to just tell everyone what they want to hear, I’ll tell people what they need to know.”

With four states holding primaries on Tuesday, the Obama campaign believes any delegates Clinton may win — even if she narrowly beats him in Ohio — could be offset by huge Obama wins in Rhode Island or Vermont.

BILL CLINTON QUESTIONS NAFTA

Today in Ohio, Clinton deployed her husband on the stump, and the former president, who passed the North America Free Trade Agreement, is now pledging that his wife will fix it.

“She proposes to substantially overhaul NAFTA,” President Clinton said.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign sent out thousands of volunteers who plan to knock on one million doors by Tuesday.

“I think his momentum from the other states is going to carry right through to Ohio,” said one volunteer.

Dueling ad campaigns hit the Web this week.

One Clinton ad posted on YouTube, created independently of the Clinton campaign, showed actor Jack Nicholson in his various movie roles saying sound bites that match Clinton’s proposals and plans.

“There is nothing sexier than a woman you have to salute,” Nicholson said in his “A Few Good Men” role. And then, as himself, he added, “I’m Jack Nicholson, and I approved this message.”

Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas has released a new tribute to Obama on the Internet.

TAKING ON TEXAS

In Texas today, Clinton addressed a group of voters that could deliver crucial delegates.

“I’ve always believe that Texans had a real sense of what it took to have a president,” she said in Ft. Worth today.

Texas has 17 media markets, 12 million registered voters and a population that’s economically and ethnically diverse. The candidates realize how pivotal Tuesday’s outcome could be. Obama has 20 offices statewide, and Clinton has 22. Each campaign boasts about 100,000 volunteers across the state.

Some of the state’s biggest names are getting involved.

“This is gonna be one hell of a primary, so I think everybody better hang on tight spur hard and let her buck,” said singer and novelist Kinky Friedman, who ran his own independent bid for the Texas governership in 2006.

The daughter of the state’s outspoken late Gov. Ann Richards made a Web video wishing her mother were still alive to fight for Clinton.

“After all, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did — she just did it backwards and high heels,” the former governor is seen saying on the video.

The push for the state’s female and Latin voters is critical for Clinton, but it may not be enough, as Obama also has been courting Hispanic voters.

“Barack Obama’s going to have made inroads with Latinos,” said ABC News political contributor Matthew Dowd. “And his huge support among African Americans is going to be more than enough to compensate for her support among Latinos.”

And Texas is complicated. The delegates are awarded based upon who showed up during the last election, and African Americans showed up in larger numbers than Latinos. And part of the voting is determined by caucusing — a format that has favored Obama so far.

Texans cannot escape the race. It is all over the airwaves. Obama and his allies — unions and outside groups — are outspending Clinton by about two to one on television.

* * * * * *

Other ABC News political blogs:

Jack Nicholson Video Backs Hillary Clinton

ABC News’ Eloise Harper reports: Sen. Hillary Clinton has always had fewer celebrity endorsements than Sen. Barack Obama, but Saturday morning Clinton got a star-studded boost. There is a new YouTube video in which Jack Nicholson expresses his support. And Clinton also received endorsements from Eva Longoria and Melanie Griffith.

Nicholson’s video, which was created independently of the Clinton campaign, shows the actor in his various movie roles saying sound bites that match Clinton’s proposals and plans. The clip includes a newly-filmed statement from Nicholson, plus him in character in "Batman," "The Shining," "A Few Good Men," and "Chinatown," and "Five Easy Pieces."

The new support Longoria and Griffith was announced on Saturday, and the two actresses will be appearing at a town hall meeting the senator is holding on Monday in Austin, Texas.

Obama Responds to Clinton in Rhode Island

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports: In his first visit to the smallest state, Rhode Island, Sen. Barack Obama tried to draw big differences between himself and his competitor, Sen. Hillary Clinton, under the guise of questioning who can bring about real change.

Obama argued that Clinton has not led for real change on a myriad of topics, and launched into a cadenced criticism saying, "Real change isn’t calling NAFTA a victory and saying how good it was for American people until you decide to run for president, like Sen. Clinton did… Real change isn’t saying that you’ll stand up to lobbyists and special interests when you’ve taken more money from Washington lobbyists than any Democrat or Republican running for president, like my opponent has… Real change isn’t voting for a bankruptcy bill that makes it harder for working families to climb out of debt."

The final "real change" argument -– on the Iraq war -– was a direct response to Clinton’s criticisms of Obama, which reached new heights this week. The Clinton campaign has ratcheted up its criticism of Obama’s foreign policy credentials and launched a bold ad questioning who was better prepared to pick up the phone in the White House during a crisis at 3 a.m.

Obama reminded the crowd twice during his speech that he was against the war from the start and that Clinton voted for the war.

"Real change isn’t voting for George Bush’s war in Iraq and then telling the American people it was actually voting for more diplomacy when you start running for president. The title of the bill was ‘A Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.’ That’s sounds like you were voting for "Authorize use of armed forces," he joked and then said defiantly, "I knew what it was."

Obama did not vote either way on the bill because in 2002 he was not a U.S. Senator at the time.

Obama’s speech at the Rhode Island College Recreational Center came the same week Clinton was in the same room campaigning. At that speech Clinton joked about Obama thinking that the clouds will part and he will wave a magic wand to get change to happen.

Obama responded today, saying he’s been teased a lot during this campaign.

"She was saying — right in this building — she was saying, ‘oh, you know he thinks that the clouds will part and you know he’s so naïve… He thinks he can wave a magic wand, suddenly everything will be great.’ You know, it is true that I talk about hope a lot…" But he said he knows how hard it will be to bring about change.

Clinton Reduces Obama’s Campaign to a Speech

ABC News’ Eloise Harper reports: Sen. Hillary Clinton reduced Sen. Barack Obama’s entire campaign to a single speech during a press availability on a plane from San Antonio to Dallas.

"His entire campaign is based on one speech he gave at an anti-war rally in 2002," Clinton said. "I give him credit for making the speech, but his speech was not followed up with action, which is the pattern we have seen repeatedly — a lot of talk no action. We have one speech in 2002 versus a record of accomplishment and a record of action."

Clinton also said she and likely Republican nominee Sen. John McCain both had experience to put forth, but Obama only had a speech.

"Now I think you will be able to imagine many things Sen. McCain will be able to say. He has never been the president. He will put forth his experience. I will put forth my experience. Sen. Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002."

When Clinton was asked if she could name one instance where she had to make a critical decision like the one she references in the "It’s 3 a.m." ad that began airing this week she said the question was framed incorrectly.

"No one who hasn’t been president has done that. That’s not the right question," she said. "The question is what have you done over the course of a lifetime to equip you for that moment. Now I think you will be able to imagine many things Sen. McCain will be able to say. He has never been the president. He will put forth his experience. I will put forth my experience. Sen. Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002."

Clinton was asked if she and her campaign still feels confused about Texas.

"You mean, trying to figure out the two-step?" Clinton asked. "We feel really good about it. We are training people. We did that event this morning. People have come from 20 counties across Texas who may be at the precinct conventions for me. We are recruiting precinct captains. We feel good about it."

Clinton did, however, express her dismay over caucuses when she chose not to mention that aspect of the Texas election.

"We focus on things, you know, we have very good people working for us. Everybody was aware of that — the primary is what we really pay attention to," she said.

Clinton was asked to react to the recent NAFTA news and was asked if she thought Obama’s position was disingenuous.

"I think it’s somewhat disturbing that he would say one thing in Ohio and have his campaign sending a private signal to a foreign government presenting exactly the opposite of what he is saying in Ohio," Clinton said. " This is part of the pattern and I think it is a pattern that really deserves closer examination. You know, NAFTA is a really critical issue to the people in Ohio. I have not just talked about the problems of NAFTA, I have put forth a very specific plan."

Of Course the Media Coverage of Obama Has Largely Been Positive

ABC News’ Jake Tapper reports on "Political Punch": I can’t believe anyone would even dispute the notion. The New York Times’ Jacques Steinberg takes a look today at the Clinton complaint, with several of the reporters the Clinton campaign regularly cites as filing from their knees disputing the charge, one even saying, "in the conversations we have as colleagues, there is a sense of trying especially hard not to drink the Kool-Aid. It’s so rapturous, everything around him. All these huge rallies.”

Um … If you need to try hard not to drink the Obama Kool-Aid, you are in the wrong business.

Some of the problem is Clinton-made: as the esteemed Mike Glover points out in the Times, the Obama press corps is covering a candidate who has won 11 straight contests, the Clinton press corps is covering someone who has lost 11 straight.

But there is no question the tough coverage Clinton has faced has not been replicated on the Obamabus.

There have been studies done on this — read HERE and HERE.

- jpt

Wolfson Schools the Press Corps

ABC News’ Jake Tapper reports on "Political Punch": In a conference call, Clinton campaign communications director Howard Wolfson pushed the media to be as aggressive in the Rezko case as they were with Norman Hsu, which Wolfson handled.

"I did my level best to answer appropriately, honestly, as completely as I could many, many, many questions about the relationship between Norman Hsu and Bill and Hillary Clinton, down to, in one instance — if the person is on the call I don’t mean to embarrass him — but down to one instance, whether or not Norman Hsu had received a signed saxophone from Bill Clinton. The number of questions that we don’t know the answers to about the relationship between Mr. Rezko and Mr. Obama is staggering.

"Just a couple: is there anyone on this call who knows how many fundraisers Tony Rezko has thrown for Barack Obama? Is there anyone on this call who knows how much money Tony Rezko has raised for Barack Obama? Is there anyone on this call who knew before a week ago that Tony Rezko actually toured the house that they purchased before Barack Obama belatedly admitted it? Is there anyone on this call who’s aware that Barack Obama met with business associates of Tony Rezko? Is there anyone on this call aware about what was discussed at that meeting? Is there anyone on this call aware whether there were other such meetings? Is there anyone on this call aware whether or not Barack Obama impugned, or, I’m sorry, opportuned Tony Rezko to obtain jobs in the Blagojevich administration for Obama allies? These are very simple questions.

"I can guarantee you that if the shoe were on the other foot, so to speak, no pun intended, I would have been getting those calls, those questions, left and right and having to come up with answers that were satisfactory to a very serious and dogged press corps. I’ve just given a bunch of questions. I bet that as good as the press corps on this call is, I bet that most of you don’t know the answers to those questions. They are legitimate questions. What is the nature of the relationship? How many fundraisers were held? How much money was raised? How many meetings were attended? What was said at those meetings? Were jobs, did Tony Rezko attempt to get jobs for Obama allies? Question after question after question after question has neither been posed nor answered in any serious way by Barack Obama. He has thus far skated by.

"Well, now the trial is beginning and I think it will be more difficult for him to avoid these various serious questions. I can guarantee you that if, again, if the shoe were on the other foot, I would be getting those questions and I’d be having to answer them to people who are very serious investigative reporters, who know their business, who know the right questions to ask, and don’t take ‘no comment’ for an answer."

Wolfson is not wrong here.

If you want to hear his melodic voice ask these questions — it’s almost like an aria, really — you can listen to it HERE.

– jpt

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